Understanding Company Culture through Graphic Facilitation

A few years ago I was asked by one of the largest employers in my area to come in and assist with a facilitation process they were undertaking. The new company manager saw my work at a local community gathering and felt that the visuals would help him with helping identify the company’s culture. Being new in this position, he wanted to understand the workers, how they are feeling and what he can do to support them or change what’s not working.

Prior to hosting in-person sessions with the staff members, he and I  had a few meetings to understand the goals of the sessions and how the process of graphic facilitation could help.

The foundation of each session included only one question which was: What Actions can we take to show you we care? We decided before going in with the front line workers that we would start the process with the leadership team.

We hosted the first hour long session with the leadership team, then 30 min sessions with approximately 20 employees per session and ending with an hour-long session with the managers.

We kept these sessions short and facilitated them in way for people to share their concerns and to feel like they had a voice. We kept them focused and made sure everyone who wanted to speak had the opportunity to.  Because this company had shift workers this meant that my co-facilitator and I had to go in around midnight to do some of the sessions to make sure everyone had equal opportunity.

Important note: We as the outside facilitation team were not related to the company. The manager also wasn't allowed in the sessions either.  By being the 'outsiders' it allows for the staff to freely express their thoughts without running the risk of being called out. We specifically didn't ask for people's names so that we couldn't call out who said what in our debrief with the manager.

 

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Photo not from this particular session. All graphics are confidential 😉

What Actions can we take to show you we care?

After each session we would allow time for people to come up to me privately and share something that they might not have felt comfortable sharing to the group as a whole.

One comment I’ll never forget was an older man, after one of the sessions with the front line workers came up to me and said, “I’ve worked here for over 30 years and no one has ever asked me how I felt before”. I felt honored to be able to be this space for people to share their concerns.

Accountability

These graphics allowed and encourage accountability within the company. They no longer had excuses or misunderstandings in the way of creating a solid and supportive culture. By having these large and digitized visual gives all workers the position to stay accountable for their actions.

The manager told me that they hung the originals along the lunch room walls so that people could remember and reflect on them. From my encouragement, leadership also made notes on them so that people could see what they were working on to improve or changes they were making to the workers concerns.

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Quick-Wins and Planning

Because of this process we were able to see that there were some concerns that were brought up more then once that were very easy to fix.  They were able to deal with the ‘low hanging fruit’ while also seeing some of the larger items and create a plan around how to deal with those ones longer term.  Because of this Graphic Facilitation process it brings the company one step closer to realizing its goals, while making sure staff feel happy and connecting. This process may be the most productive meeting of the year. In this case study the company was able to deeply understand the problems and make a solid plan for the future.

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Collaboration

Traditional meetings can leave employees feeling undervalued. We never truly know where those notes go, or who’s working on what and when.  The process of graphic facilitation ensures all opinions are highlighted and discussed, so everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute. Most times when I’m capturing in this way, themes emerge. A lot of people have similar thoughts, opinions and suggestions. This helps build comradery to see how we can build off of one idea.

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thoughts on the process

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from various graphic facilitation processes. I loved this case study in particular because the new manager pursued these facilitated sessions even though we knew that it was going to stir up and bring to light some things that people weren't happy about. This process is certainly not for managers who want to do 'business as usual' or just looking at checking things off their list. You can't fix what you don't know is broken and by going through this type of culture process with the support of graphic facilitation can open up the light at the end of a tunnel.

Let me help you!

If you are looking for a company culture deep dive of your business reach out to me and book a time to chat. I'd love to learn about your goals and discuss whether or not a process of graphic facilitation may be the key to unlock your greatest potential!

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