Leveraging the Buzz to Shift Culture

Feb 21, 2019

During the creation of our local Washoe County’s master strategic plan five years ago, one of the most challenging components they needed to tackle as an organization was to improve their customer service. Now several years into their planning cycle and implementation, the County has done an excellent job knocking down the big priorities they set out to achieve. With some of the major milestone met, they’ve committed to deep focus on tackling one of the most difficult objectives of their plan – improving customer service.

A few months ago, we covered how the Washoe County Community Services Division (CSD) created a process to facilitate their strategic plan using Buzz Sessions. As a very high-level recap, Buzz Sessions are sessions used to help an organization articulate the issues and topics that create buzz around your organization. These sessions take place completely absent of organizational leadership. It’s an opportunity for the organization to articulate the unsaid strategic issues and topics that affect an organization to be leveraged in the development of a strategic plan.

The outcome from those sessions was a clear commitment to supporting the high quality of life the community servers by serving customers in a streamlined and effective way. In fact, the structure of these sessions was so successful they decided to leverage the structure to tackle something that can be even more challenging than strategic planning – shifting their organizational culture.

With the commitment clearly articulated, CSD hosted another set of working BuzzBack Sessions to work through how they are going to achieve that commitment. The obvious need to achieve that commitment is to shift the culture, which includes shifting the beliefs and behavior of the organization. Here are the three key areas they focused on:

  • Beliefs they wanted to maintain: What beliefs do we want to keep as we move forward to achieve our commitment?
  • Beliefs they wanted to stop: What beliefs do we need to sunset?
  • Beliefs they wanted to create: What beliefs do we need to adopt?

It goes without saying that the process of shifting culture can be a difficult one. It can be trying, emotional, and if executed improperly can impact the culture in the opposite way intended. So, why do we think the Washoe County Community Services Division will be successful? Their approach and dedication to listening. These BuzzBack Sessions removed the pressure and allowed the groups of leadership, managers, and team members to gather together and discuss how they might change their beliefs and behavior to meet the commitment they’ve articulated.

Culture and change is hard. But through this process we’re confident Washoe County CSD has the tools, alignment, and dedication to make it happen. Nice work!

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