Step 1: Reset Your Culture
The Culture That Got You Here Won’t Get You There
The hybrid workplace is here to stay.
Even before the pandemic, around a quarter of employed Americans were working from home at least some of the time, and more than half had flexible schedules. Despite that, there was still a stigma associated with remote work. However, COVID-19 quickly shifted work dynamics. Not only did it debunk most of the myths about working remotely, it actually increased productivity to unexpected levels.[i] And, as the incident at Apple shows, many employees appreciate the flexibility and freedom that remote work has given them.
A hybrid workplace can bring together the best of both worlds—the convenience of working from home and the social interactions of the office.
Unfortunately, many companies are slipping back into old, unhealthy habits rather than building on what they learned during the pandemic. In doing so, they’re missing a golden opportunity to embrace the future.
Digging your heels in, going back to the office, and pretending the pandemic never happened is a mistake. And trying to take in-office cultures and practices and copy-paste them into a half-remote/half-in-office experience can backfire.
Hybrid could quickly become the worst of both worlds.
As Betsy Bula, a GitLab all-remote evangelist, told me: “Companies are struggling. They use hybrid as something they can lean on—a temporary Band-Aid in the meantime, to try to meet and please the needs of all team members that are very different for their work.”
As a whole, hybrid is difficult to do right.
You need to be intentional about revisiting (almost) everything about your culture. It will require a lot of experimentation and adjustments to avoid creating a two-tier experience; one for remote, one for co-located employees.
After eight months of being forced to work fully from home due to the pandemic, GoTo, the company behind tools such as GoToMeeting, LastPass, and RescueAssist had three choices, Douglas Flory, global practice lead, shared with me. “We could renew ourselves, we could return, or we could refresh.” Using a house as a metaphor for culture, he remembers telling the CEO, “We could paint it, we could go back to the house as is, or we could move to a new house.”
Like most companies, GoTo had an office-centric culture that wasn’t suitable for the new reality. In October 2020, CEO Mike Kohlsdorf officially declared, “We are becoming a remote-first company.”
The decision to refresh instead of a return or a simple renewal was a pivotal moment for the company. GoTo is currently experiencing its strongest culture—and business growth—as a result of a hybrid workplace where people can choose when and where to work.
I invite you to seize this unique chance: Consciously design a successful hybrid workplace that bridges the gap between what employees want and what leaders demand.
It’s time for a reset.
As companies reopen their offices, they face new challenges. Step 1: Reset is not about getting rid of everything and starting from scratch. It’s about leveraging what’s worked in the past and adopting new behaviors as needed. It’s time to create an Anywhere/ Anytime Culture, one that brings the people in your organization together regardless of where they’re working from.
The 5 Key Mindset Shifts
To thrive in a hybrid workplace, your organization needs to adopt five key mindset shifts. Let’s examine each one, as they form the basis for much of the culture design work we’ll be doing.
From Culture by Chance to Culture by Design
Many people believe that culture just happens organically; that’s why they’re afraid it will suffer if people are not at the office. But culture can and, I would argue, should be designed deliberately. A successful company culture doesn’t happen by accident. It is designed and built with purpose and intent.
It’s true that, left to its own devices, company culture is organic; it will happen naturally and emerge freely. However, in a hybrid environment, you need to be more intentional. Company culture design should be treated just as intentionally as designing a new product. It should start and end with the user in mind, turning it into a co-creation process.
Very few companies have had the privilege of working remotely for years—and by choice, not forced by a global pandemic. One common thread I observed researching successful remote-first organizations is their obsession with designing culture intentionally, along with a healthy emphasis on clarity and transparency.
Web development company Automattic, best known for its WordPress product, considers communication “the oxygen of a distributed company.” Its employees are encouraged to communicate as much as possible, not only about work, but also about personal things. From a formal approach to informal communication to codifying the obvious, a remote-first culture is the result of obsessive design and intention.
Another big lesson is to adopt a trial-and-error mindset. No one gets it right from day one. Companies like GitLab, Doist, and Google have been experimenting for over a decade, and their approach to remote work continues to evolve.
Most importantly, involve your people. Successful remote-first organizations co-design their cultures with their employees.[ii]
At GitLab, anyone can edit the company values. You’re encouraged to make suggestions even if you don’t work there. Give it a try: Contact GitLab’s CEO Sid Sijbrandij on Twitter with any suggestions you have.[iii]
Culture design isn’t about imposing a path, but rather building a framework through continuous input from people and iteration.
Later in this book, I go into more detail about exactly how to design culture. For now, I’d simply like to impress upon you that intentionality, or lack of, can make or break your hybrid culture.
From Input to Impact
Historically, organizations have rewarded input—visibility, effort, presenteeism, etc.—over outcome. Employees who worked late, sent a lot of emails, or were always in meetings were perceived as hard-working, committed team players.
Organizations can benefit enormously by shifting their focus away from these traditional input measures and focusing on impact. Don’t reward presenteeism or long hours. Evaluate people based on goals and results, not on how late they stay in the office or how many Zoom calls they attend.
Google has been using OKRs (objectives and key results) at both an organizational and team level since long before the pandemic. OKRs form a “binding contract” among team members, according to Google VP of Digital Work Experience Prasad Setty. OKRs help divide roles and responsibilities, encouraging people to think in terms of contribution, not input. “As long as the goals are clear and OKRs are clear, you don’t need to monitor activity/input,” Setty explained.[iv]
It’s important to focus on metrics beyond goals. In Europe, Microsoft encourages people to consider learning and growth in addition to OKRs. People must reflect on questions such as, What impact did I have personally? How did I contribute to the success of others? How have I leveraged others’ success to become better myself?
Having a team purpose helps people focus on the most significant outcome—the impact you want to create in the world.
People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to create a legacy. Having a purpose matters more than ever. Research by Humu shows that people who don’t feel their work contributes to their company’s purpose are six times more likely to quit their jobs than their peers who do.[v]
If you want engaged and productive employees, focus on the impact you want to create and they will follow.
From Work-Life Im/balance to Work-Life Integration
As a society, we tend to consider work and personal life separate, but for most of us, “work-life balance” remains elusive. Paradoxically, the more we try to pursue it, the harder it becomes to achieve.
“Always-on” culture was already breaking down the boundaries between our work and personal lives. Then the pandemic arrived, and the lines became blurrier than ever. Working from home has created a more human connection to work. Many of us have spent the majority of the last two years working in the company of pets, children, spouses, and roommates. COVID brought work to our homes, and our personal lives into our jobs.
At GitLab, team members hold “Juice Box” chats. These are similar to a coffee chat but aim to bring employees’ children, grandchildren, and other family members together. These sessions are usually focused on a topic such as Legos, superheroes, video games, or outdoor activities. Instead of fighting reality and trying to prevent kids from interrupting business calls, GitLab went all-in, creating a kind of all-remote version of “Bring Your Child to Work Day” held multiple times a year.
Many companies have thrown away their perfectionist approach to the workplace with acts such as replacing professional dress codes with more informal ones. GoTo has revisited its core values through this lens. For example, “Be Real” now also means that’s it’s okay if your Internet connection freezes or your dog or child unexpectedly join a Zoom meeting. Being real means you are not expected to always look professional—overly polished or perfect—but human. This removes unnecessary pressure and helps people do a better job.
Accepting the increasingly fluid boundaries between work and personal life, rather than building higher, stronger walls between them, will create a more humane and flexible workplace. Before, our daily commute created a clear boundary between personal life and work. Today, working just a few steps from where you sleep or play is common.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says that harmony has been critical to his success and happiness. He doesn’t really separate work and life, but instead frames it as work-life harmony. “I always used to think that you need to find that balance between what’s considered relaxing and what’s considered working.”[vi] Nadella encourages employees to follow his lead in trying to harmonize what you deeply care about with your work.
As Nadella stated: “If I’m happy at work, I am a better person at home, a better husband and a better father. And if I’m happy at home, I come into work more energized—a better employee and a better colleague.”
From Synchronous to Asynchronous Collaboration
One of the biggest mistakes most companies made when forced to work remotely was carrying old habits into a new way of working. They continued approaching collaboration as something that needed to happen synchronously, with everyone reviewing information, making decisions, or brainstorming together.
The result? Most teams struggled with an overload of meetings, Zoom fatigue, and late hours, even on weekends.
Traditional workplaces were filled with synchronous communications. Meetings required everyone to show up, and people were expected to take calls and respond to emails immediately, regardless of what else was going on.
Amir Salihefendic, CEO of Doist, said the benefits of asynchronous communication go beyond flexibility “so people think before they write, and it creates a much more calm environment,” he says. At Doist, people can set their own work schedules, are not pressured to respond outside of work hours, and have the time and space to think about a topic and regroup with thoughtful responses.
Experts agree that whether your team is fully remote or hybrid, it should adopt an async-first approach.[vii] Asynchronous collaboration creates a different, more flexible set of rules.
Asynchronous communication requires more intentionality and effort. Your team needs to become obsessive about documentation which can slow down communication sometimes. However, when people are thinking deeply, writing down their ideas, and presenting them, better collaboration and work result—no meetings required.
Updates and information sharing don’t require a meeting anymore. EMEA Partner Technical Lead for Microsoft Teams Rooms Michel Bouman suggests shifting from viewing meetings as a one-off experience to a life cycle. Before the meeting, coordinate schedules, share necessary information, and assign prework tasks. During the meeting, use the time for discussions and decision-making. After the meeting, each person takes care of their part and, if any discussion is required, it should happen asynchronously.
From One-Size-Fits-All to Flexibility
I get a lot of pushback when I tell my clients to set a simple, company-wide policy and then give teams the freedom to design their own hybrid approach. Organizations are used to having a one-size-fits-all approach to work. It can be hard for them to accept that the benefits of flexibility more than justify any complexities.
However, a common denominator of each successful remote company I interviewed for this book was that teams had a say in how things got done, from shaping the remote work corporate policy to having the flexibility to adapt them to their own needs.
Apple’s mistakes included assuming that leadership understood what employees wanted and tried to find a solution that would work for everyone. Messages like “We know many of you are eager to reconnect in person with your colleagues back in the office” backfired. Employees often felt not just unheard but actively ignored, and Apple’s assumptions made things worse. People felt that the mandate to go back to the office showed a lack of empathy.
Apple employees didn’t just push back. They provided concrete, actionable solutions. Their complaint letter is a smart roadmap for redesigning the future of work.[viii] Among other things, they suggested that
· Remote and location-flexible decisions be up to teams to decide (just like hiring decisions)
· A short survey be available to promote ongoing feedback on topics affecting hybrid work, including employee churn
· The company evaluate the environmental impact of going back to the office
· All employees could set their own schedules according to what would work best for them
An overly rigid approach can create inequality in the workplace. Be intentional about creating an even experience for every employee, including equal access to leaders, career opportunities, learning and development, and belonging. It’s not that everyone should get the same treatment, but that everyone has equal opportunities.
“This idea that for one stakeholder to win, another has to lose is bad design. I always think like a designer. Design is not the way something looks; design is how something works, and something works best when it works for the largest number of people,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky told McKinsey.
When GitLab implemented “Async Weeks,” an invitation for employees to clear their agendas and block time for deep work, they didn’t anticipate the resistance from some groups. Client-facing employees such as sales and customer service don’t have that freedom as they need to take care of external stakeholders. GitLab’s culture team is currently exploring solutions for this challenge. In the meantime, they’ve encouraged sales and customer service employees to eliminate internal meetings.
Managing the complexities of scheduling, integrating individual and collective needs, and overseeing people who work from different locations isn’t easy; having a centralized, top-down approach won’t work. Team members can make better decisions when given freedom and authority.
It pays to keep your team rules simple and flexible and include team members in writing their own code of conduct. This is more than just a perk for employees; 72% of workers who are unhappy with their current level of flexibility are likely to look for a new job.[ix] Flexibility is one of the best antidotes to the Great Resignation.
Can You Build Culture Remotely? Yes
The evidence is overwhelming. When done correctly, remote work increases productivity and work enjoyment. In addition, many professionals have experienced growth, both professionally and personally.
Additional research shows that over three-quarters of employees wish to work from home at least half of the time; almost 50% would rather quit their current job than not have the option to work remotely most of the time.[x]
Yet many leaders resist remote work and force employees to return to the office. Even Netflix’s CEO wants people back in the physical workplace, despite not having an office himself.
So, why the disconnect?
I’ve spent a lot of time interviewing senior executives about this over the last few months. The recurring theme is that most CEOs believe their workplace culture has suffered during the pandemic, and they fear that it’s impossible to keep it alive remotely. Senior leaders still believe that culture only happens in the office, requiring employees to see each other and have impromptu interactions and casual conversations.
While I agree that those elements are vital, they’re not enough of an argument to bring people back into the office full-time.
This unfounded resistance is based on cognitive biases. On the one hand, the safety bias pushes executives to worry about the difficulties associated with working remotely. On the other hand, the anchoring bias promotes a faulty tendency—executives stay anchored to their past experiences and information.
There are many more biases in play as I observe working with different types of organizations.[xi] But there’s something else. Leaders feel powerless in a hybrid workplace. In short, they miss being in control.
Remote expert David Tate said it best: “When fearful CEOs talk about workplace culture, they’re really talking about workplace control.” Not all CEOs resist a hybrid workplace. Microsoft research shows that many value how flexibility can increase employee engagement. They also acknowledge the savings in office space and carbon footprint reduction; a hybrid environment means less commuting, reducing both vehicle and airline miles.
The fact remains, however, that not having employees at the office creates a perceived loss of control. Most leaders use visibility as a key performance indicator (KPI)—presentism, working long hours, or being in back-to-back meetings equal productivity.
Controlling leaders have become more controlling during the pandemic. That’s why most people are overwhelmed. Remote work doesn’t drive burnout, per se. It’s leaders’ desire to be in control that has added an unnecessary burden to people’s workload.
Research shows that we are intrinsically motivated when we feel we have power over events in our lives. The pandemic disrupted this sentiment for everyone. It’s natural for CEOs to feel lost, but letting go of control is vital to discover the upside of a hybrid workplace. Distance is not an obstacle but an opportunity to increase connection, collaboration, and agility.
Yes, you can build culture remotely.
It certainly requires a more concerted effort than in the office, but it’s possible. In the following pages, I will share how companies such as Microsoft, GitLab, Volvo, Atlassian, Fannie Mae, Mars Wrigley, Slack, and many others are successfully building culture remotely. Moreover, I will dissect the principles behind successful cultures so you can design yours intentionally.
Reset Culture: Where to Start
What do I need to know to lead remotely?
Clients often ask me what tools they should be using. They think that thriving in a hybrid workplace is about logistics and technology. However, moving your culture in the right direction requires a new mindset, not just tools.
Leaders of hybrid teams will have to do what regional and global leaders have always done: work hard to create connections between on-site and remote employees.
Eliminating the labels that get in the way is a great way to start. As David Barker, Paddle’s chief people officer, said, “We’re trying to move away from labels right now; we like the idea of ‘digital-first,’ rather than being hybrid or remote teams or fully in the office. So how ever we operate, we want to operate in a digital way, meaning we capture things digitally and we’re able to circulate [information] asynchronously.”
Managing remotely is not the same as managing in the office. Unlearn what used to work. Here are some of the most significant adjustments you can make as you reset your culture for a hybrid/remote environment. If you are already practicing some of these, wonderful! The others should help you build on your efforts.
Let Go of Control; Become a Facilitator
When their teams went remote, many executives felt like they’d lost their superpowers. The authority of the corner office vanished almost overnight, becoming just another small rectangle in the Zoom grid view.
Leaders often resist a remote workplace, claiming that culture will be lost. In reality, they’re afraid their charisma and influence might not be quite as important in a virtual setting. Or worse, maybe their contribution to culture wasn’t as significant as they’d thought.
Resetting leadership starts by unlearning everything we know about how to lead. Rather than managing by watching (or, to paraphrase business guru Tom Peters, ‘wandering around’), it’s time to focus on facilitating the right system.
Few were trained or prepared to lead in a hybrid workplace, and this is actually an advantage as it opens up space for other voices. Instead of trying to drive the process, leaders have an opportunity to facilitate better conversations. Encourage people to ask better questions. Let them find the answers.
How should we ask for help?
How can we have fun remotely?
How can we continually build trust remotely?
How can I help remove the corporate obstacles that get in the way?
Adapting to a remote-first environment is like visiting a foreign country. It requires learning a new language, behaviors, and culture. It’s normal to feel disoriented.
Are you willing to embrace your vulnerability and say, “I don’t know”? How do you feel about letting team members co-create the new culture rather than dictating the terms yourself? Are you open to maximizing the benefits of a remote environment even if it means your role feels less important?
Leading as a facilitator means letting go of the desire to be in charge and in control. Your role is to help your team decide on a shared future, facilitate ongoing conversations, and make sure no one is left behind.
The Office Is the New Offsite
The problem with the term “Zoom fatigue” is that we’re blaming a tool instead of tackling a broken culture. Working from home is not the reason for burnout, but it has amplified existing problems within most organizations.
The truth is that the office isn’t necessarily a great place to get work done.
As far back as 2013, the remote software company Basecamp’s CEO, Jason Fried, argued that the modern office has become an interruption factory and claimed that “work doesn’t happen at work.”[xii] The open office plan was meant to be a space for collaboration and transparency, but the reality was anything but ideal. Open offices are noisy, full of distractions, and lack privacy. Conflict ends up hidden behind closed doors.
Like it or not, the future of the workplace is no longer office-centric. Hacker One CEO Mårten Mickos agreed: “It’s funny we call it the virtual world. We think it’s something unnatural. However, civilization is flipping. The natural way will be [remote], and in-person will be the unusual one some years from now.”[xiii]
The default is rapidly changing. Until recently, working from home was seen as the exception. Very soon, working from an office will be the exception.
It’s time to rethink the office as the new offsite. It will become a space for special occasions, such as brainstorming, launching a new team, celebrating a big win, or running design sprints.
Clive Wilkinson Architects, the same company that created the open-office frenzy, has flipped its vision and is working on a new one.[xiv] Hint: It will include the library, a quiet space for deep work and research; the plaza, a kitchen and lunchroom to socialize with colleagues; and the avenue, a transitional space for passing with the potential for casual collaboration.
Supercharge the Trust Battery
Working in a hybrid environment requires trusting employees more than ever. This is critical for success.
Tobi Lütke, CEO of Shopify, popularized the idea of the trust battery.[xv] He believes that when a new colleague joins your team, the trust battery between the two of you starts out at around 50%. Each time the new colleague acts in a positive way, the trust level increases, while negative behaviors decrease trust.
The trust battery is slow to charge yet quick to drain.
In most companies, you must earn trust over time to earn benefits, but in a remote environment, you don’t have the luxury of time. A hybrid workplace demands that organizations take trust to a new level.
“Work appropriately” is GM’s new norm to deal with hybrid work.[xvi] This play on the automaker’s dress code (“Dress appropriately”) promotes both trust and flexibility. Its approach acknowledges that the needs of each employee, project, and team are different.
The Australian software company Atlassian offers new employees a holiday before they even start working in the form of a travel voucher for a “holiday before you start.”[xvii] This is more than just a perk; it’s a clear message that Atlassian trusts its people. It’s also an act of empathy: the company acknowledges that changing jobs is stressful.
Trust requires that someone take the first step. Leaders should be the first to demonstrate real trust in their employees. Fifty percent is not enough—they need to supercharge the trust battery. Thriving in a hybrid workplace requires trusting employees beyond what feels comfortable.
Virtual Friction Is Healthy
Conflict is a necessary force for growth. Teams that embrace tension, rather than run from it, are more successful. This is even truer in a remote environment.
When working in person, it’s easy to spot signs that trouble is brewing. In a virtual space, signals are harder to read or confusing. The solution is to not only promote transparency but to encourage people to address conflict in the open.
GitLab, the poster child for remote work, believes that transparency is vital but not enough. GitLab prioritizes open discourse over private discourse. People must address conflict out in the open.
GitLab’s solution is the “short toes” principle: no one should worry about stepping on someone else’s toes because all employees have “short toes.” Employees are encouraged to assume positive intent. If people say something that might feel uncomfortable, don’t make it about yourself. Understand they want what’s best for the company.
It’s not easy, and leaders know that sometimes things can get ugly. However, a small dose of virtual friction is better than letting tensions fester.
Obsess over Communication
Employees usually do a lousy job of communicating in a physical space. We tend to infer a lot, talk in bullet points, and assume that everyone’s taking note.
That’s why Amazon has banned PowerPoint presentations and replaced them with the memo, a well-written document with real sentences. It provides a clear perspective about a topic with the background to make smart decisions.
The hybrid workplace requires a similar obsession with communication and documentation.
GitLab recommends a “handbook-first” approach, meaning they document everything in their handbook before it’s even implemented.[xviii] Although this requires an up-front investment in time and effort, it pays off by reducing time, mistakes, and friction in the long run.
Documenting everything is about creating a single source of truth. Instead of asking people to come up with answers, you can look for the answer in the system itself. It saves time and headaches. Documentation also helps neutralize emotions. Instead of answers and solutions based on personal opinion, everyone is able to provide documentation in support of their ideas.
This kind of “curated conversation” is a powerful way to reduce conflict.
Leave No One Behind
One of the biggest challenges in a hybrid workplace is ensuring that those who work remotely are not left out of crucial conversations.
Proximity bias leads managers to favor those nearest them and who they see most often. On-site employees often have access to better perks, get more time with executives, and multiple studies show that those who are physically closer to managers are more likely to be promoted.[xix] Remote employees, on the other hand, may be left out of decision-making, ignored on calls, and even paid less.
This bias is almost always unconscious, which is why it’s so dangerous.
The solution lies in first letting go of the idea that being at the office makes people more productive. Recall Mindset Shift #2, From Input to Impact. Leaders need to make a conscious effort to include everyone and to evaluate people based on goals and results, not on time spent. Leaders also need to ensure that all voices are heard.
Below are some ways to make this shift a reality.
Level the playing field
Look for ways that you can create the same—or, at least, a similar—experience for everyone. For example, if you happen to work from the office, show empathy by designing a hybrid experience rather than expecting remote attendees to adapt to you.
At Trello, if even one person joins a meeting remotely, everyone else joins from their desks. This creates a similar experience for all attendees so that no one feels like they’re at a disadvantage. They want to empathize with others to encourage balanced participation.
Microsoft usually selects a facilitator who’s not in the room to run hybrid meetings, and everyone follows a set of rules that levels the playing field. If anyone wants to ask a question, they have to raise their hands, either physically or virtually. All team members join via Microsoft Teams regardless of whether they are in the room or participating from home. The chat function is used by everyone to ask questions or share additional information.
Share the pain of the remote jet lag
Traditionally, time zone differences created a lot of friction among team members. According to a study by Google, remote team members always had to adapt to the “central office” time, sometimes having to attend meetings very early or very late in the day.[xx]
We all need to be more aware and adapt. After realizing the effort many participants were making to join my workshops at, for them, weird hours, I decided to share the pain and offer alternative times to make it easier for people to participate. Now sometimes, it’s me who suffers from virtual jet lag, kicking off a workshop at five a.m. my time, or finishing at ten p.m.
This experience has made me more conscious than ever of the challenges of time zones. We all need to adjust and make sure that everyone gets their turn to attend at regular hours.
Be more inclusive
Part of the reason that people don’t want to go back to offices is that often, offices weren’t inclusive spaces to begin with, particularly for people from underrepresented backgrounds, for introverts, and for new employees.
Working from home has blurred the boundaries between home and work, making it more difficult for women, in particular, to switch off. According to the Women at Work survey in 2021, 65% of working women felt the pandemic made things worse for them.[xxi]
Balancing work and family obligations has become an uphill battle, especially for mothers who lack child care or workplace support. These factors have led to women feeling less ambitious about their careers. The majority feel burned out, and more than one-third said they’ve thought about quitting over the past year.
Despite these challenges, women showed up as better leaders during the pandemic, providing emotional support to their team members and championing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).[xxii] However, their dedication has not been reciprocated by their (mostly male) managers. Even worse, all that extra work is unrecognized, underappreciated, and won’t lead to career advancement.
A hybrid work environment requires being more intentional about inclusion and equal participation. Leaders must ensure no one is left behind.
Recap—Step 1: Reset Your Culture
· A hybrid workplace is here to stay.
· Thriving in the environment requires revisiting (almost) everything about your company culture.
· Successful remote-first organizations design their culture intentionally and obsessively.
· Despite the concerns of some leaders, it is possible to successfully build a remote culture.
· Leaders must “unlearn” traditional leadership strategies and design an equal experience for both remote and on-site employees.
Your Turn: Reset Your Culture
The Culture Reset Canvas is a simple tool for facilitating crucial conversations
about what’s working and what isn’t. More importantly, it’s an invitation to design the future, leverage the good practices you should preserve, and shed the less helpful ones.
In this facilitation guide, I explain how to manage the conversation and provide a list of questions that spark great conversations.
You can facilitate this conversation in person, remotely, or use a combination of both. I recommend using MURAL or another virtual whiteboard to provide a space for everyone to share their thoughts and capture the agreements.
A facilitator should manage turn-taking and guarantee equal participation. Remember that the quality of a culture reset depends on the quality of the questions. Ask the right ones and let the conversation flow. Just listen. Open-ended questions invite dialogue and elicit more information than simply assigning a score to a statement.
Begin by downloading a copy of the Culture Reset Canvas using the QR code below.
The tool has three circles, each of which represents a crucial question:
· What used to be?
· What should be?
· What could be?
Kickoff (10-15 minutes)
Introduce the goal of the session and the Culture Reset Canvas framework.
Start with a quick check-in round or facilitate an icebreaker. For example, inviting team members to share “I’m amazing because… ” is an excellent way to reinforce interpersonal relationships and kick off with an appreciative mindset.
Define and share the ground rules to promote a safe, collaborative space. The success of the session depends on openness and active participation.
What Used to Be? (30-45 minutes)
In this part, you want to capture two things:
· Your culture pre-pandemic
· Your culture once people were forced to work from home
Differentiating between the two will help you understand what was working in the past, what stopped working in the new reality, and what improvements your team has made.
Use the following questions to inspire a richer discussion:
· What do you love most about this team?
· What brought you here and what has motivated you to stay?
· What do you value most about your team members?
· What gives/gave life to our organization?
· What were our highs and lows? What has driven each?
· What are the core factors behind our success? And the ones that get us stuck?
· When we played at our best, what did you see, who was involved, how did we make decisions, and what were our strengths? (Repeat for when we played at our worst).
· Think about a story of overcoming a challenge that makes you feel proud of this team. What happened? What was the obstacle? What enabled us to succeed?
Begin by letting each person capture their ideas in silence.
Next, have everyone share one thought at a time. If someone has already shared a similar thought, people can say they agree but should try to contribute a new idea.
Group similar ideas and find a theme that best describes the cluster. Avoid focusing on just the most common topics; a crucial issue might be brought up by only one team member.
What Should Be? (15-30 minutes)
Review all the groups and discuss which elements of culture you want to preserve and which you want to discard.
Use the following prompts to facilitate the discussion:
· What are the key themes behind our success?
· What mindsets and practices from our past were vital to adapt to WFH?
· What mindsets and practices from the past got in the way in a WFH/ distributed workplace?
· Which practices and mindsets from the past should we keep?
· What are the things that no longer serve the team?
· In what areas did we make a lot of improvements (collaboration, feedback, psychological safety, meetings, etc.)?
· What contributed the most for us to successfully adapt to the new reality?
· Who helped you the most and why?
· What new behaviors and practices have we adopted during the pandemic that we should preserve?
Not everything you want to get rid of will be “bad.” Some processes or behaviors might have worked in the past but no longer serve the team in a hybrid workplace. These are the hardest to spot and let go of.
The team must be aligned in what they want to preserve and get rid of before moving to the next step. If participants get stuck, the facilitator can use the consent process to unlock the discussion.
What Could Be? (30-45 minutes)
The third part is about imagining a better future.
Start by inviting team members to dream about what the future could look like. Encourage them to imagine they’re doing the best work of their lives.
· What are they doing? With whom? And how?
· In this exciting future, how do we operate as a team?
· What defines a role model in our team?
· What behaviors and mindsets make us proud?
· What systems and methods help us do better work?
· What communication structures are in place?
· How do we hold each other accountable and support one another?
Allow a couple of minutes for everyone to dream on their own and then share their vision of the future. The team should agree on a shared future.
Capture the behaviors and practices from the second circle that will help you get there. Identify which need to be evolved/adapted and which will continue to work as is. What’s missing?
Design the elements of culture that need to be incorporated to help your team achieve your dream future.
Wrap up the session by creating an action plan of who will do