Tag Archives: meetings

Breaking the Iceberg of Company Culture

Company Culture is key to the success of a business. Voltage Control works with enterprises to help them discover ways to sustain innovation and create lasting cultural change.

Breaking the Iceberg of Company Culture

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Company culture is like an iceberg. Organizational icebergs dictate how a company operates from the bottom up. Just as the tip of an iceberg is visible above the water’s surface, much of company culture goes beyond what is “visible” to most.

For example, most people judge a company’s culture based on attributes like productivity and performance, though these elements represent a small percentage of what lies at the company’s core. If the tip of such organizational icebergs is 10%, several other factors contribute to the underlying 90% of a company’s culture.

Paying attention to what lies below the surface of your organizational icebergs is the key to making lasting changes.

In this article we’ll explore how to make a shift in your company and meeting culture with the following topics:

  • The Core of Company Culture
  • The Organizational Iceberg Analogy
  • Breaking the Ice
  • Meeting Systems Change Your Company Culture
  • Best Practices for Selecting Meeting Systems
  • Making Meetings Magical

The Core of Company Culture

Organizational culture or company culture is the secret behind business success. Companies that have a healthy organizational culture are 1.5 times more likely to see a 15% growth in revenue in 3 years and 2.5 times more likely to enjoy significant stock growth in three years.

While growth is inextricably linked to having a healthy company culture, 85% of companies reportedly fail in making necessary shifts. If you hope to make a change to your company’s culture, you’ll need to start transforming the core of how your company operates.

The Organizational Iceberg Analogy

The organizational iceberg analogy comes from Edward T. Hall’s “Iceberg Model of Culture.” In this analogy, Hall explains how organizational culture is similar to an iceberg at sea. While one can see 10% of the iceberg above the surface, a majority of the iceberg is below the water.

The analogy of organizational icebergs highlights the potential difficulties a company faces in assessing the wellness of their organization outside of typical metrics and other visible elements of culture. Companies that are only paying attention to the visible attributes may miss what lies underneath the surface. Likewise, companies that hope to make a change must alter underlying values and principles to see visible results.

In the iceberg analogy, visible indications of company culture can include:

  • Processes
  • Shared values
  • Structures
  • Policies
  • Strategy
  • Goals

Breaking the Ice

While organizational icebergs aren’t inherently dangerous, failing to see below the surface poses a threat for any company. This type of imbalance in your company culture may result in low employee engagement, high turnover rates, and poor performance across the board. These symptoms are an indicator of misaligned strategy and culture and a company that doesn’t fully understand or embody its values.

Voltage Control Meeting Culture Redesign

The iceberg model can help you create a permanent fix for short- or long-term issues. Breaking the ice begins with finding the “why” in each action, diving deeper, and making a shift in structure and processes. Having a clear understanding of organizational icebergs will help you make the necessary changes to your company.

The iceberg model can be broken down into four levels:

  • Event 

Consider “what is happening” within the company culture and how it presents in behavior and quality of work.

  • Trends/Patterns

Understand what patterns exist within the company as you analyze the trends over time.

  • Structure

Determine what is influencing the repetitive behavior to analyze the habits and structure behind the actions.

  • Mental Models

Mental models are at the heart of every action and shape the underlying beliefs that motivate your team.

As you carefully consider your company’s organizational icebergs, you’ll be able to create a holistic shift in your company culture.

The iceberg model teaches that change begins at the bottom of the pyramid with beliefs and patterns. Consider the following example in which a company identifies a need for change and potential solutions:


  • Event: People aren’t engaged at meetings.
  • Pattern: People aren’t participating in meetings and deliverables aren’t being met.
  • Structure: Team members don’t feel meetings are an efficient way to spend time and they believe the meetings are boring, unproductive, and stressful.

Management level: The company is used to daily 1-hour meetings, failing to consider that more dynamic models will lead to an improvement in performance. 

  • Mental Models: Employees are disengaged as they are forced to sit in daily meetings. Moreover, team members may not want to participate if they feel their voices aren’t heard.

Whether your meetings are mismanaged or you are hoping to take your gatherings to another level, it all begins with your meeting systems.

Meeting Systems Change Your Company Culture

Company culture is ever-changing. Company culture includes the beliefs, habits, assumptions, values, and visions that are at the core of your company. Your meeting culture is intrinsically tied to your company culture and the way you manage meetings will set the tone for your company culture as a whole.

Remember, your meeting culture should always embody your company culture, but if you have a troubled organizational culture, it will translate to your meetings as well. Breaking the ice is essential if you want to run successful meetings, promote collaboration and discourse, and allow for true vulnerability amongst participants. To experience a change in company culture, start by changing your meeting systems.

Voltage Control Concentric Consensus

Meeting systems ensure that all meetings strategically align with your needs and company culture. These systems help to establish which operating models, performance criteria, and employee support are essential to running successful meetings. Upgrading your meeting systems will result in a shift in mental models, improved structure, and transformed patterns.

The most functional meeting systems offer support with the following:

  • Continuous improvement and system maintenance to improve a meeting’s operating system as the company evolves
  • Performance monitoring that ensures the meeting model results in the expected deliverables
  • Appropriate meeting supplies, equipment, and facilities
  • Technology that supports the execution and administration of all meetings
  • Training in the skills and processes required for successful meetings

Best Practices for Selecting Meeting Systems

Breaking down your organizational icebergs starts with identifying best practices for running successful meetings and selecting a meeting system.

Meeting systems should take the following into consideration:

  • Defining the Work

Appropriate meeting systems define the work that needs to be done, focusing on any items that require team input.

  • Tailoring Meetings to Content

Effective meeting systems require focus. Facilitators should choose a single topic to focus on in each meeting.

  • Determining the Meeting Frequency

Meeting frequency plays an important role in structuring sessions. Urgent topics and problems should be discussed regularly while less urgent topics may be discussed on a less frequent basis.

  • Choosing the Length of Each Meeting

No two meetings need to feel the same. While some topics require more in-depth discussions, shorter meetings help to keep the energy in a session alive. Longer meetings should be reserved for topics that require more discussion and exploration.

  • Planning for Overflow

Meetings that flow seamlessly rarely allow for extraneous discussion. Planning for overflow is an important strategy to ensure all meetings are as efficient as possible. An overflow session allows for additional discussion on topics that aren’t appropriate for other meetings.

Voltage Control Magical Meetings Story Spine

Making Meetings Magical

There are countless meeting systems available for organizations to effectively facilitate any type of meeting. Finding the best meeting system for your organization will improve your meeting culture while streamlining the process.

Not sure how to go about selecting the proper meeting system for your organization? Let our expert facilitators lead you through a meeting systems workshop. You’ll learn tips and tricks to improve your facilitation as you discover the best ways to incorporate organizational icebergs into a winning facilitation strategy.

Sign up with Voltage Control to learn more about our meeting systems workshop and how you can fast-track your meeting culture transformation.

This article was originally posted at VoltageControl.com

Image credits: Pixabay, Voltage Control

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600 Free Innovation, Transformation and Design Quote Slides

600 Innovation, Transformation and Design Quote Slides on Innovation, Change and Design

Free Downloads for Keynote Speeches, Presentations and Workshops

Looking for a compelling quote for a keynote speech, workshop or presentation on any of these topics?

  • Innovation
  • Digital Transformation
  • Design
  • Change
  • Creativity
  • Leadership
  • Design Thinking

I’m flattered that people have been quoting my keynote speeches and my first two books Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire and Charting Change.

So, I’m making some of my favorite quotes available from myself and other thought leaders in a fun, visual, easily shareable format.

I’ve been publishing them on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

But now you can download twelve (12) volumes of fifty (50) quote posters, for a total of 600, for FREE from my store:

You can add them all to your shopping cart at once and download them for FREE.

Print them, share them on social media, or use them in your presentations, keynote speeches or workshops.

They are all Adobe PDF’s and the best way to add them to your presentation is to:

  1. Put the PDF into FULL SCREEN MODE
  2. Take a screenshot
  3. Paste it into your presentation
  4. Crop it and adjust the size to your liking
  5. Change the background color of the slide to a suitable color (if necessary)

Contact me with your favorite innovation, design thinking, change, transformation, or design quotes and I’ll consider adding them to my library of future downloads.

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Advances in the Management of Worthless Meeting Syndrome

Advances the management of worthless meeting syndrome

GUEST POST from Arlen Meyers

Now that we have all been stuck inside for almost two years, many of us are suffering from an exacerbation of worthless meeting syndrome (WMS) , most recently remotely.

Of course, worthless meeting syndrome is a well-described chronic disease which has periodic exacerbations. It can be endemic or global with recovery and remissions. Here are the signs and symptoms.

One meeting expert notes that bad meetings are the bane of the corporate world — and yet despite what appears to be an overwhelming consensus that they’re often unnecessary and unproductive, many workplaces continue to struggle to avoid them. In this piece, the authors discuss the psychological pitfalls that lead us to schedule and attend too many meetings, and share strategies to help employees, managers, and organizations overcome those challenges. While there’s no way to completely eliminate the universal human biases that drive these tendencies, a greater awareness of the psychological factors at play can help us all work towards healthier communication norms, more-effective interactions, and cleaner calendars.

My recommended treatment is to refuse to attend any meetings:

  1. Where there is no agenda
  2. Where it is informational that could be communicated some other way
  3. Where we discuss what we discussed last time without taking action
  4. Where my input is required to inform a decision or take action on something
  5. Where there is no psychological safety
  6. Where a working group could have done the grunt work offline and reported their findings for approval or modification
  7. On weekends or nights unless absolutely required due to mission critical time zone issues or deadlines
  8. The meeting last longer than 45 min, if not 30
  9. No one takes minutes and there are action items for next (if necessary) meeting
  10. There are more than 7 people in the meeting
  11. Lobby your congressional delegation to make them illegal As remote work becomes more widespread, the parliament of Portugal recently passed a law banning bosses from contacting employees after working hours by phone, message or email. Violations of the new law — designed to “respect the privacy of the worker,” including rest and family time — could result in fines. Employees there have also been given the right to opt out of remote work, and to be reimbursed for expenses incurred while working from home.

Note: Ivermectin has not been shown to be clinically effective.

If your boss insists that you attend and you are accused of not being a team player, then get a note from your doctor. They are available online at www.wms.com

For the meeting junkie who has everything, we are also offering a clock at our WMS store that not only measures the length of the meeting, but also the prorated amount of money you are paying for the people to attend the meeting, similar to the US National Debt clock.

Image credit: BringTIM.com

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Innovation, Change and Transformation in London – Part One

Innovation, Change and Transformation in London - Part One

I’m off to London tomorrow for my London Business School class reunion. And, while I’m looking forward to reuniting with my LBS classmates, I’m also looking forward to connecting in person with some of the smartest innovation, change and transformation professionals, academics and entrepreneurs on the planet.

But I need your help…

I’m trying to organize a meetup of London innovation, change, and transformation professionals on Friday afternoon, 3 May 2019 in central London, but I’m still looking for someone to provide a space to facilitate this cross-pollination of ideas.

If you would like to host me and a dozen or so amazing innovation, change and transformation professionals, academics and entrepreneurs to empower some great conversations and information sharing, please contact me.

I will be returning to London in June/July, but more about that later. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: I was able to secure a room at the Oracle office in Central London near Moorgate for Friday afternoon from 1pm-4pm. Please contact me if you’re interested in attending as I’m finalizing the attendee list and I have a maximum capacity for 25 people. I’ll send final details by email once the attendee list is finalized.

UPDATE: We had a great turnout at this innovation, change and transformation meetup at the Oracle office in Central London. It was a great opportunity to meet some great Innovation Excellence contributors in person, to make a lot of great connections between people and to share information and inspiration. For those of you unable to make it, sorry, but you really missed out! Maybe next time…

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Think ‘Out of Four Walls’

Think 'Out of Four Walls'I had coffee with a clever marketing and sales consultant recently and one of the topics we discussed was the impact of location on a group’s ability to innovate. At the time we spoke about getting people to think in new ways by getting people to think in new places. That is to say that if you always meet in the same places to try and be creative as a team, don’t you ultimately get the same types of thinking? In other words, do you hit a creativity plateau by meeting in the same places all the time?

That of course is part of the reason that companies have off-sites, but I would argue further that the “same places” includes the typical locations for off-sites. I would argue that if you are trying to get people to think differently that you have to take people to an unusual, unexpected location. I would argue that you announce one location for the meeting that you have no intention of going to, get everybody to assemble there, and then go somewhere else. What this achieves is that in the time leading up to the meeting people start preparing mentally for what to expect and how things will go, but then when they show up and you announce you are going somewhere else, you will generate buzz and excitement, the walls of expectation will come tumbling down and you will get people to begin thinking in a different way than they were prepared to think.

That is only half the battle though. My next recommendation would be to pre-arrange for people to bring portable seating with them or bring it for everyone yourself. Then if you are trying to get new thinking, get radical but relevant. For the approach I am to suggest, you must keep the groups small, tailored to the venue you select (you don’t want to be asked to leave, or at least not too quickly).

For example, salespeople for BestBuy who are trying to figure out how to do things differently might go meet in an auto dealership, or a Nordstrom’s, or a 7-eleven. Find a place out of the way and start your meeting. If asked to leave, have your meeting on the sidewalk outside or in the parking lot (going back inside as needed). The site you choose should be related to your business but not directly related – notice Circuit City was not an example.

The site could also however be related to your topic. A meeting to talk about how to better understand what customers want could be held at a busy intersection with stop lights in case you wanted to ask real people what they think. Just please make sure to be careful and not get yourself run over when trying to ask people questions(stay on the sidewalk).

If you meet at someone else’s business, please try to choose a slow time of day and stay off to the side and out of the way. If you’re looking for more “natural” thinking, then meeting in the woods, by a river, or on a hill can also be good. Regardless of where you choose to meet, just be sure to debrief at the site, or literally just outside your own building before returning to work.

If you try this approach to uncovering new thinking I think you will be pleasantly surprised, and I would love it if you send in your stories and photographs of different unusual places you meet and what the topic for the meeting was. I look forward to seeing your “Out of Four Walls” thinking!

Build a Common Language of Innovation

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