magical creatures
I recently re-analyzed the Theranos case, which was the biggest scam in the history of Silicon Valley startups. Of course, many factors converged in that story - the actual niche is health care (a hot topic for the US), the possibility of simplifying blood diagnostics and making it cheaper, and the brand of a young woman, as a new image of success, plus the growing popularity of Stanford. 
If investors would evaluate the potential success of a product or technology and conduct a deep analysis of the company's culture using specific methods, then the probability of an accurate forecast would increase tenfold. 
Theranos was a company with prohibitions on communication between the departments, with complete opacity of processes and goals, increased anxiety, constant control of every step of employees, and a vast number of security guards. 
Before investing, what if one of the investors requires an in-depth audit of the company's culture and values and the level of team health? What would be the result? That's right: they would be denied. Theranos would not allow such an audit. The investor would not have invested money and would not have lost it along with their reputation. Thus, the team's culture audit will tell you no less about the business's potential success than the audit of the technologies. 

How to conduct a culture audit, and what approaches and methods to use 

Three years ago, I conducted a culture audit in my IT company, which allowed us to make urgent necessary decisions for recovery, improve performance and attract new investors. 
We hired about 550 people a year, doubled the company's size and launched 18 new IT projects. The company's environment and internal communications changed significantly. 
So we decided to conduct a thorough audit of the company culture, to understand our «red zones» and what actions to take to create an inclusive environment, increase process efficiency and employee happiness. This made it possible to implement new engagement tools.  
Participation in such an audit has already significantly increased the engagement and the connection with the company vision since it was not just a formal process of studying documents and survey results but a process that included creative exercises. 

What areas did we explore? 

Level of transparency. 
Level of connection with the company's vision. 
Level of communications. 
The mood in the company. 
Relations between departments. 
The main feature of the company image in the perception of employees. 
Risk zones in the field of loss of key personnel. 
Key values of the corporate culture. 
Key motivators for different groups of employees. 
Corporate culture values in the desired format. 
Internal comfort zones of employees and their coincidence with the company's values. 
Identification of risk areas in the field of internal beliefs and values that impede the effective development of the company. 

The most important! Some magic... 

In generative coaching, there is such a method as "WE - creature" - when culture is perceived as a magic creature with its face, character, skills, and motivation. When we conduct an audit, we evaluate the nature of these creatures, how they feel, what they need to be happy, how they will behave in different situations, whether they are ready to help and be friends of business or whether they will attack and bite.  
As a creative person, I love such a stage in the culture audit as a team coaching session where leaders create a picture of what creature represents the company's culture. Be sure to include such creative tasks. They help turn on creative thinking and catch what is impossible to see in surveys and interviews.  
This is where the subconscious comes in. For me, the essential step in analysing a culture or creating company values and mission is creating a productive environment within the team that is felt at the level of empathy and mirror neurons. 
The team is involved in the creative process of creating the image of the culture, and already at this moment, healing begins, and people invest the warmth of their creative energy. 
My recommendation is to include more creative practices in the process of working with culture, environment, and values. That's when the magic begins. 

So, back to Theranos… 

What creature represents their culture? Probably It's a strange monster. 
If investors saw this monster in advance and realized its unviability and danger, how many problems would not arise? 
If your company culture was a magical creature, what would it be? 

About the author 

Zhanna Zhuravleva is a HR transformation leader, Leadership Coach, and company culture consultant. Connect with Zhanna on Linkedin: Do get in touch with Zhanna if you’d like to ask her any questions about her article 
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