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One of the most critical inputs into an onboarding plan is an assessment of context and culture. The context has three parts: the business environment, the organization's history, its recent business results. The environment is comprised of customers, collaborators, capabilities, competitors, and conditions (the five Cs). Strongly suggest you look at the business context and evaluate how significantly and urgently the organization needs to change given that context.

Then, evaluate the organizational culture's openness to that change.  Yesterday's post on a B.R.A.V.E. Framework for Thinking about Culture gives you a start on that.  In the end, all the components together should give you a read on the most important aspect of an organization's culture – its readiness to change.

It's useful to think in terms of SURFACES: Smooth Sailing, Unsustainable Calm, Ready to Accelerate, Facing Disaster, each yielding a different indicated action:

  • Smooth Sailing – If the context does not require significant changes now and the culture is ready to change, Assimilate in.  The organization will figure out the changes it needs to make over time.
  • Unstable Calm – If the context does not require significant changes now, but the culture is not ready to change, Converge & Evolve slowly, applying a steady stream of little shocks.  Eventually changes will be required.  But you have time to become part of the organization before pushing the changes.
  • Ready to Accelerate – If the context does require significant changes now and the culture is ready to change, Converge & Evolve quickly.  You may be the catalyst that helps the organization wake up to the need for change.
  • Facing Disaster – If the context does require significant changes now and the culture is not ready to change, then you must Shock the system for it to survive.
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