I was in the UK all week. I was based in the south of England for most of the week, but spent a couple of days in the (relatively) far north. If you ever get chance to visit the north east of England, please go. The scenery is breath-taking and everybody you meet is as friendly and hospitable as they are inspiring and passionate. Passionate about what they do, how they do it, and who they do it with. It was a tiring week – at times both difficult and emotional – but I was very pleased to be there, and very grateful to everyone involved in me being there.
Last week was also unseasonably mild, and was even bright and sunny at times. It was still December of course, so there was little chance of me getting too warm. But I couldn’t resist sneaking outside occasionally to increase my winter Vitamin D levels.
On Thursday we also had chance to celebrate our annual people awards. We heard (and cheered and clapped) wonderful stories about individuals and individual contribution…about teams and teamwork; stories of great science, colleagues and projects as well as great impact, influence and delivery.
As I sat and listened and smiled, I found myself thinking how much harder we find it to measure success on culture than to measure success on our portfolio or in our business. But so much of what I saw and heard, felt and experienced this week was based on culture…great culture. This makes sense – without great culture we will never succeed.
Part of our problem of course, is that culture is hard enough to define or describe let alone assess or improve…especially for scientists who love to measure and analyse everything. In truth though, we all know a great culture when we are part of it. And we similarly recognise a negative culture when we experience it. And therefore – in effect – we all realise that we are the culture.
Changing culture is like changing anything else – we need motivation to change. Ronald Reagan (yes really) captured this very well with his much used (by me at least) quote – a quote that always helps me a great deal:
‘…for us to change we either need to feel the heat or see the light…’
‘Feel the heat’ is arguably the most common approach to drive change. It’s the metaphorical ‘big stick’ or ‘veiled threat’…“we have to change or we will go out of business”. “We have to improve or we won’t win any more work”. “This project will stop unless we achieve our key milestone in 2015.”
‘See the light’ is a very different style of leadership but tends to be a less common approach to encourage change. In most cases though, ‘see the light’ is more successful, longer lasting and more empowering…but it is undoubtedly harder to achieve. ‘See the light’ is the ‘carrot’ vs. the ‘stick’…‘compelling vision’ vs. ‘implied threat’. “If we meet our goals this year additional investment will come.” “Finishing our project in 2015 will allow us to support many more successful clinical trial starts next year.” “This work will provide so much opportunity for us to grow and develop.”
‘Turn up the heat’ is used to create a sense of urgency – and increased urgency is indeed a change in culture. Urgency is pressing. Important. Full of pressure. Critical.
‘Show the light’ will create a sense of eagerness. And increased eagerness is also a change in culture. Eagerness is compelling. Exciting. Full of desire. Anticipation.
It was warm and sunny this week. I was pleased I avoided the heat…but delighted I was exposed to the light.