CUs consider workplace culture strategies.

Credit union leaders face a continuously challenging environment of change from technology, regulation, intense competition, and economic and political uncertainty. During periods of turbulence, a robust organizational culture provides a strong foundation for the stability needed to advance strategy. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, relates: “The C in CEO is for curator of culture.” His recent book, “Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone,” conveys how when he became CEO in 2014, morale was low, and PC sales were declining in favor of tablets and phones. Other products were not major successes, and its Bing search engine was not contending effectively with Google. In the face of these challenges, Nadella articulated a strategic vision of Microsoft as the chosen platform for the technologies of the future, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, big data and the internet of things.

Yet, Nadella saw that the existing culture would hinder rather than support progress of any strategy. He recognized that a shift was needed to create an empowering culture to drive his strategic vision, and he knew the CEO must lead the change. When taking the helm, he found Microsoft’s culture as rigid and hierarchical. The employee evaluation system, which incorporated forced attrition, was intended to reward talent and weed out non-performers. However, it often sabotaged cooperation and resulted in destructive competition. Employees had to prove they were among top performers as compared to colleagues. This caused unintended results, such as people avoiding working on teams with the highest performers for fear of falling to the bottom, and managers of high-performing teams not being incented to help manage out low performers on other teams. Fear of failure and of not being the smartest one in the room meant that meetings were formal and scripted, leaving little room for creativity. Risk-taking and innovation suffered.

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