Case Study: Culture Change in a Think Tank

In: Case StudyDate: Nov 16, 2023By: Claire Lickman

“Since working with Happy we have seen a huge shift in the culture. I don’t know how you measure it, but people are more cordial, more collegial and talk to each other more, as people who have been through something together.”

A government think tank came to Happy because they wanted to change the culture of their organisation.

The organisation was very silo-based. As a research organisation, many of the leaders were highly intellectual and good at generating income. However, they needed to work better with people, both within their teams and between teams.

The key challenge was to improve this communication and to support the senior leaders to be more effective managers.

Initially, we planned two, four-day Happy Leadership Programme cohorts, based in the classroom. The first one went very well – then the lockdown happened.

“People really loved it,” says the Head of HR.

At first, they delayed and hoped for a return to the classroom. Eventually, somewhat reluctantly, they decided to hold the second cohort online.

“We approached it rather tentatively, not sure how it would work,” explains the Head of HR. “However, your facilitator did it so well that, within half an hour, all our fears were dispelled. Indeed, people were saying to me that we need to do a course with Nicky on how she does this and how to lead great online events.”

"We have seen a huge shift in culture"

The two programmes have had a huge impact.

"I don’t have absolute metrics but we do have anecdotes," continues the Head of HR.

"One of the sessions was on the importance of one-to-one meetings with your people. One of the leaders felt emboldened to say that they never usually met with their staff, but as a result of this session, they would start doing so.

"The CEO was dumbfounded. It was something she had been trying to get him to do for years! Nobody had been able to get him to relate to his staff, but this one session with Nicky had enabled it."

Cross-departmental relations and communications have also seen a huge improvement.

"A lot of our departments are stand-alone. When they came together, it was normally a fight over resources and it was something of a war zone.

"That has changed. There is much more of a sense of collegiality now. After the workshop, a number of them agreed to meet every other Friday to buddy up and support each other, and to think about how to apply the Happy principles. This would have never happened before!

"We have seen a huge shift in culture. I don’t know how to measure it, but people are more cordial and talk to each other, as people who have been through something together.”

They are also reviewing their approach to appraisals following the programmes. "It's going to be replaced with three things: a team target setting session and ‘just in time’ conversations, and a once a month 10-minute catch up where you talk about what you have learnt this month and the manager asks how they can support you.

"I don’t think this would have happened without the sessions we have had with Happy. People have responded by saying ‘this is very much in line with what we learnt from Happy’."

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