Crowdsourcing Culture Change

My first week at Temple has been great. Everyone has been very welcoming and I loved getting to meet individual team members and hearing their ideas. Many of the ideas that I heard this week, and also in the weeks before I started, were about changing the culture.

Establishing a supportive and innovative culture is my most important job as a leader.  It is also one of the most challenging things to do. This is not something any one person can do alone. Each group defines its culture together, either intentionally or unintentionally.

This week, we started to intentionally create a new culture together by crowd sourcing ideas from the entire Computer Services team. I invited everyone to come to a meeting and we did two liberating structure exercises to identify the top things that the team would like to change.

The first exercise was to identify what we should STOP doing. We did this by having each person in the room design the most demotivating work environment that could imagine. The power of asking the opposite of what you want to achieve is that it is unexpected and opens the thinking of the group. The second step of this exercise was to identify which demotivating things we were currently doing as a team. The final step was to prioritize the top two things we would like to stop, with a concrete first step on moving forward. Each step of the exercise is done by having each individual do their own thinking, then share their thoughts with one other person at their table, then discuss the ideas as a table before sharing their ideas with the entire group.

The report out from the tables was fun and it was very clear immediately that the team wanted  to stop requiring salaried employees to clock in and out each day,

The second half of our all team meeting was to generate bold ideas of what we could do. This exercise is done by having each person generate one bold idea of how to make the culture of the team better with the first step that they would take to make their idea happen.  The ideas are written on one side of an index card. Then everyone in the room stands up, exchanges cards and rates others’ ideas on a scale from 1-5, with 5 representing a terrific idea that they could fully support.

This exercise turned out to be a little chaotic with so many people in the room. While not perfect, the exercise did work and the group generated several ideas that got top ratings.

Like the first exercise, the majority of the ideas centered around one theme. The team really wanted to establish flexible work schedule options, including telecommuting. This is something that is important to me as well and we will work together to define guidelines for the team in the coming month.

I have already taken concrete steps based on the suggestions from the meeting. Eliminating clocking in and out for salaried employees was an easy thing to accomplish which I did by sending out an email at the end of the week. One team member tweeted about clocking out for the last time, which made me smile.

We will all meet again next month and will assess the progress that we have made on the creating more flexible schedules for the team. We will also work together on other aspects of the culture.

My challenge for you this week is to think about the culture that you are either intentionally or unintentionally creating in your team and identify if it is the culture you want. If it isn’t, think about how you can involve the entire team to start to shape your culture more intentionally together.

Photo taken by ITU pictures –


I am in the middle of the transition to my new role.  For me, the middle is the least comfortable part of any transition. I think this is because I want to be constantly moving forward and instead of being in limbo, want to move quickly to decision and action.

In his book, Transitions, William Bridges outlines three steps of transition that every individual go through when change happens. The first is an ending, the second is a neutral zone, between the old and the new, and finally, the third step is a new beginning. He argues that every successful transition has all of these phases that need to be fully experienced and that most of us are not comfortable making transitions even though we are constantly changing.

One piece of advice that Bridges gives is to not try to rush the neutral zone, but to take time to be alone in order to make the mental and emotional transition from the old to the new. This includes understanding what you want to leave behind and what you want to create and who you want to be as you move forward.

I thought I was following that advice when I scheduled almost a month between my old and new job. However, in retrospect, I filled that time with many activities and didn’t really take much time to be alone and introspect.

My final full week in Ann Arbor has been a time for connections with several walks with dear friends through the Arboretum and cherished meals with wonderful colleagues. I have been busy packing and sorting getting ready for my new life in Philadelphia. I also have been sick all week with a summer cold.

I have noticed that often when I am in transition, I get sick. The first time I noticed this was at the end of each semester in college, when I would literally collapse into bed after completing my last final. And, often after completing a major project, I would come down with something after all of the stress had dissipated. This week as I have been forced to slow down to let my body heal, I have come to the conclusion that this is a mechanism that I personally use to slow down and give myself space away from activity and time to recover.

I am excited and curious about this next step in my transition to a leader at Temple University and recognize that this transition feels better than previous job changes. I am not anxious and have continued to use the tools that I have learned to stay at peace. Understanding that I don’t need to have all the answers, I haven’t made a 90-day plan of things I want to make sure will happen as I start my new job.  Instead, I have written a positive intention to listen, understand, and work collaboratively with my new colleagues to create a shared culture and vision. I am eager to see what we create together.

My challenge to you this week is to notice where you are in the transitions in your life and give yourself the time, space, and permission to experience all of the different steps in your own personal transitions.