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Some of the best conversations are inspired by sitting around the fire and thinking of possibilities and visions – large and small.

This episode is all about culture. Kyle learns from guest Miriam Dicks the link between apex predators and internal culture.

Miriam Dicks is the founder of 180 Management Group. Miriam is an operations leader with proven experience in transforming organizations to achieve optimal operational performance. Miriam’s passion for operations is fueled by her belief that any organization can operate in excellence with the right tools for change.

In this episode, Miriam shares her experiences navigating complex organizational change and how culture impacts the success or failure of those changes. She explores the impact of culture on technology projects especially when you are trying to get an entire organization aligned around a common outcome or a problem to solve.

Miriam also explains how important it is for leadership to understand organizational culture, and how she goes about measuring culture. How can you help your nonprofit nurture the good parts of your culture, and also explore areas that could use change? This conversation should give you a greater understanding of the role of culture at any institution.

Our Fireside Chats are designed for audiences with varied experiences with technology. In this Fireside Chat with Miriam Dicks on Culture, learn more about leading nonprofits by understanding your culture, where it must change, and how to change it. Face the apex predator that is culture and come out on top.


Kyle: Hey everyone. This is Transforming Nonprofits where we explore a range of topics related to nonprofits and technology. Sometimes we find out that technology is only a part of what helps to transform a nonprofit and this episode couldn’t underscore that point more. This episode is all about culture. And it’s also about apex predators. Stay with me.

My guest, Miriam Dicks, will explain more about apex predators and you’ll get to see the link between an apex predator and culture. And if you don’t know what an apex predator is, neither did I. But Miriam helped me understand and now I not only understand the link, but I can use apex predator in a sentence and sound super cool.

Miriam Dicks is the founder of 180 Management Group and in this episode, she shares more about her experiences navigating complex organizational change and how culture impacts the success or failure of those changes. We talk about how culture impacts technology projects, especially when you’re trying to get an entire organization aligned around a common outcome or a problem to solve. She shares how important it is for leadership to understand their organization’s culture and how Miriam goes about measuring culture and ways that she helps nonprofits nurture the good parts of their culture and address the parts that perhaps need to change.

I found my chat with Miriam so incredibly foundational to my work at Build and as a Chief Information Officer for our clients. 

This conversation should give you a greater understanding of the role of culture at any organization. As you listen, think about how culture can support or how it could sink one of your technology projects.

With that, let’s get into the conversation and thanks for listening to Transforming Nonprofits.

Miriam, thank you so much for joining Transforming Nonprofits Today. I’m so excited to talk to you. You and I were having a really great conversation before we even hit record for today’s session, and I kind of wish we had recorded the whole thing, even though it’s not about the topic today; you’re so easy to talk to. And I’m really appreciative of your time.

Miriam: Wow, thank you so much. And thank you for having me here.

Kyle: Of course, of course. So today we’re going to be talking a lot about culture. And it’s something I’ve always been interested in because usually when I do my work, I can pretty quickly get, or at least I think I can get, a sense of the culture of an organization by how people are interacting with me. I’m interested in learning more about what led you to this work and becoming an expert in culture and imbuing it into the work that you do.

Miriam: Well, I’ll try to give the not-so-long version of this story. My introduction into the marketplace as a professional, we’re talking about the little jobs we have right after college where we don’t know what we’re talking about, don’t know what we’re doing. My first big girl job was working for the hospital. I had just come out of grad school and I was thrown into the midst of M&A work, mergers and acquisition work, for the hospital system.

Part of my job was being a part of the due diligence process and the post merger integration process. So the due diligence process was really for me in my role as an operations leader, to understand how organizations ran, how they were being run, and how they facilitated the operational services of their business. I would go into those organizations to look at people, their staffing, some of the plans that they had for benefit structures.

I would look at the type of equipment that they were using. I’d look at the facilities that they were in. And of course doing that kind of work, you’re really immersed in the environment of that particular organization.

When they get to know you better, because you’ve been there for a couple of months, they let their guards down. At first you might get the, we’re on our toes because someone is here looking at us to potentially purchase this particular business. But then after being there for a while, people let their guards down and you would see some of the cultural things that might be an influence on how this particular organization would fit well within another organization as an acquisition. And so, that’s the due diligence side.

And then the post merger integration, it was a matter of understanding how do we acculturate this particular organization into a bigger umbrella? And making sure that, if you have staffing here and you were doing performance evaluations, how would you do that in another umbrella? If you were to purchase equipment and supplies, you did that with one organization, how do you do that under this other organization?

So I was really steeped in culture and operations. And what I found is that that’s transferable. So even though my background started in the healthcare world, it’s transferable to many organizations as to how it is that your operations and your culture intertwined and what that means for you in providing excellent service from your organization to your clients.

And so that’s how I got started. And that’s what really gave me a lot of background in understanding the different dynamics and aspects of culture because I looked at a lot of small businesses. And when I say small, I worked for a very large organization, a multi-billion dollar organization. But the acquisitions were of small independent businesses. And so having the experience on both sides, whether it is a small business or a large organization, culture matters.

Kyle: Yeah. You talked about how transferable the skills were. This feels like an incredible oversimplification. But I would imagine a big part of culture are the people, right? And people are people. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a hospital system or a nonprofit. 

But I would imagine that there’s more to culture than just the people. And I’m wondering as you think about it, how do you think about the main components of culture, what are those?

Three Components of Culture

Miriam: Because I am an operations-minded person, I look at culture very systematically. I believe that there are three (components). Especially because of the work that I do as an operations consultant.

I’m looking at three different areas of an organization that I believe comprise their operational culture, which is

  • how people work together, the interaction between people,
  • how people actually perform their work; do we have systems in place to get this work done that are efficient?
  • how work is informing your strategy. In other words, are we positioned so that the work we do provides data so that we can use that data for strategic planning?

So I’m looking at people, processes and planning. And the way that an organization goes about facilitating those areas of responsibility is a culture in and of itself.

For example, if an organization is super focused on people, people being happy, people being the best they can be in this organization and feeling that they’re a part of every move that we make. Sometimes, you can really go overboard and have a democratic type culture that slows the organization down from a decision making process because we’re so invested in making sure people feel as though they’re involved in every aspect of how this organization is run. That’s a culture.

And they’re heavily invested in people and not necessarily leveraging the other aspects of culture like strategy or planning and processes because they’re hypersensitive about people.

And you can go the other direction, which is you have organizations that are maybe really, really focused on strategy and planning. And they are just trying to get ahead of the market and people can become commodities. That’s a culture because they’re so focused on planning and strategy and getting ahead of the game, they’re sometimes not even thinking about the processes that need to be in place to actually implement this strategy. And so that’s a culture where it’s all about trying to get to this next place that we’re trying to get to. And we’re not balancing that strategy with people and processes and those types of aspects of how organizations function produce a particular type of culture.

We could really go into what that looks like, but I’m sure we don’t have time today. But that’s how I look at culture.

When we go in to assess an organization, we’re looking to see how balanced they are as it relates to their people and their processes and their planning.

Kyle: I think you should clear your calendar because I have so many questions. Let’s make this the longest podcast I’ve ever done.

I want to go back to something that you said because it really resonated for me as it relates to nonprofits. I’m curious about your reaction to this. But one of the things that nonprofits believe is that their culture is an extension of their mission. And maybe a better way of saying it is that their mission is a pillar of the culture.

And when I think about nonprofits and the answer that you just gave to my question, they tend to be overly democratic and they tend to want to engage a lot of folks in decision making. And that comes up for us at Build Consulting around technology projects. And we think that that’s great. We think that there is an element where people should be invested and involved in decision making.

But you’re right. It does oftentimes impact the speed with which change happens. And I’m wondering, when you are working with organizations like nonprofits, how do you help them understand the impact of a culture that’s overly democratic to the exclusion of progress? I think what I heard you say is, sometimes that can be a detriment; sometimes it can prevent meaningful progress. 

Miriam: It’s not about excluding people from decision making. It’s about including them at the right times.

You do want an inclusive culture in your organization. But understanding that everyone has a role to play and they have a perspective to bring, should inform us as to how we would bring in different perspectives and these different skill sets and these different ideas into the decision making processes.

So in other words, if there’s a financial decision that needs to be made for the organization and a level of decision making for that financial decision is one that would require a certain amount of financial savvy and skill set, it doesn’t make sense to bring in someone who is the marketing professional, who is the creative in the organization, to help make that financial decision.

When we understand how it is that we can leverage all of the different wonderful talents and skill sets that we have within an organization, we can put them in the right places to make effective decisions.

When we start to bring everyone to the table for everything, we’re not positioning them well because we might be asking them to help make decisions that, even though there is a culture that says my voice should count, I could be giving a perspective that could be damaging or limiting the organization because I don’t have the breadth and the depth of expertise or knowledge to really bring something to the table to make this decision. And that’s where I think we really struggle in how it is that we leverage people.

And I see that so much in the nonprofit world because every nonprofit that you encounter started as a passion project. There was something that was going on in their community that was not being addressed and someone was passionate enough to pick up the reins and say, we’re going to do something about this.

And passion does coalesce, passion does convene. You’ll have people who gather around passion. Having like-minded individuals is great because we’re all on the same page with wanting this mission to be met. But what we have to stop and think about is the fact that we need a dynamic team of folks who can do the things that maybe are not what’s passion fueled. That’s not necessarily the main focus of our mission because structure undergirds that.

And so if you have other folks on the team who have different areas of expertise and can help with making sure that this passion project has longevity and scalability, then we’re looking for different types of people, not just the ones who have the passion that we have.

And that’s where I feel like we see a lot of these struggles in our nonprofit organizations because we want to just hire passionate people who want to do the work of the mission and not necessarily folks who have different skill sets that would allow them to do the work of the mission, but maybe in a different capacity.

Kyle: Yeah. You said something earlier. It’s a version of something I’ve said: every nonprofit started around a kitchen table, just about every one. Unless you’ve got a massive amount of funding to start a nonprofit, it came fromsomebody’s passion around a dining room table and a small group of people. And every nonprofit gets to an inflection point where they have to evaluate that passion piece and where it is helpful and where it is not helpful.

Miriam: Exactly.

Kyle: At Build, we think it’s important that people are really clear in a technology project, who gets a voice and who gets a vote. And really understanding that people want voices and it’s important to get people’s voices, but you do need to identify who the people are making the decision. That can be a collaborative group of people, but it can’t be the whole organization.

Miriam: And I love that. I love that, who gets a voice and who gets a vote. That’s very clear. And I do think that that’s a part of good planning – strategy. How are we going to launch an initiative, how are we going to move this organization forward? I love that. I love that adage. I’m going to have to use that. So, if you hear it again, I’ll give you some credit, but I’m going to use it.

Kyle: Yeah. I’m the one who came up with it. Give that credit to Kyle Haines for coming up with it.

Miriam: Directly to Kyle, exactly.

Culture as the Apex Predator

Kyle: I saw this core belief of yours that before you start any type of work, whether it’s a transformation effort or you were consulting on a merger and acquisition, that you absolutely have to start with culture.

How often do you encounter people who try to shortcut that, and how do you counter their desire to do that?

Miriam: Well, let me first start with why it is that we take that stand and that position.

My husband and I and even our children, we have young adult children these days, we are big Marvel fans. We watch a lot of Marvel movies. And I don’t know if you are as well, but have you ever seen the movie Eternals?

Kyle: So I do not watch Marvel movies. But like, a one off note, I’ll go see it.

Miriam: So with this particular Marvel movie, The Eternals, there’s an opening scene where there’s a professor or teacher talking to some students. And they asked a question about what an apex predator is.

One of the students raised their hand and says an apex predator is a predator that doesn’t have any predators. And the teacher says yes, that’s correct.

Culture is an apex predator. It doesn’t have any other predators. It is the predator that’s going to eat every strategy for lunch. It doesn’t matter what you come up with, if your culture doesn’t support it, it will not work.

Kyle: I’m stealing that. I’m going to steal it. I love it.

Miriam: Yes. And so you know, when it comes to understanding the culture, it’s imperative. It’s what I liken to, if you were sick and you went to the doctor, you’d want the doctor to do an assessment on you, to ask some questions about how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing so that they can prescribe the right course of action for you versus go to a doctor and like, yeah, I’ve heard this before. Let me just give you this medicine. And you’re like, wait a minute Doc, that impacts those other medicines I was taking. Wait a minute Doc, that made me swell up.

If we’re going to be effective in the work of building or transforming your organization and its operations into more efficient operations and effective operations, we can’t do that without first addressing your culture.

We need to know more about it. How is it that you handle situations as they come up? How many projects have you had in the past? How many of them have failed? How many of them have been successful? How many people in your organization are adverse to change? How many people in your organization feel as though they’re not tech savvy?

We’re going to ask those questions because it matters. It matters to us that we understand the very particular nature of your organization and how we could provide you with a solution that fits where you are today and understand that this is what’s going to get you to where you need to be tomorrow.

And so yes, we do those assessments and we make that non-negotiable for us. And we do that because we know that it’s going to provide fit. We are okay with not being the best fit as a consulting firm for everyone. We’re okay with that because we want to do good work. And so that’s why we do that.

Now, have we had folks who have wanted to skirt the process? Absolutely. And we are definitely okay with referring them out to folks who may be a good fit for what they’re looking for, for a very short term solution or project. And maybe they get great benefit out of that. But I will say that the folks who skirt the process, they may not always have the best outcomes because they’ve paid for a consulting project to be done and realized it was a band-aid on a bigger issue.

And so now you did get what you asked for, but are you able to continue implementing those strategies? Is it actually getting you where you thought you would be this time next year for instance?

And so what we typically do is we speak about the pain point. So when folks say, well, I just want this technology project to be up and running, we ask questions about why it is not up and running. What issues have you had in the past? And sometimes those particular leaders may not be adept at pinpointing the why. And that’s when we say, that’s why we need to do an assessment.

Kyle: Yeah. We use this all the time in our work. This formula that I took from someone else, I mean all of our great stuff we take from, borrow from other people.

And nobody knows where it came from, but this formula that old organization plus new technology equals expensive old organization.

Embedded in that, the old organization is what we need to understand and gain agreement around what parts of that old organization are we keeping and what parts are we hoping to change or are you expecting to change?

I want to let you keep talking because every time you talk, it opens my awareness and creates a ton of other questions. That’s why this podcast is going to be four hours long. Go ahead.

Miriam: So one of the things that I was thinking about as you disclosed how it is that you work with your organizations to help them understand that old organization and new technology, it’s like an expensive old organization.

One of the things that’s challenging about an operations consulting firm is that it’s not as clear as we provide a solution for technology that’s going to give you “this.” We provide a solution for fundraising that’s going to give you X.

When we are talking about operations, we’re talking about leaky pipes, things that people don’t see, things that are in the foundation that need to be addressed and repaired. And unless we fix those leaky pipes, you’re going to always have problems with flow and being able to meet your mission. It’s more difficult to talk about operations in a way that people immediately get it.

And so the idea of having to have an assessment for operations is where we see the most pushback. If you watch those shows like on HGTV where they’re building homes and renovating homes and the folks who have a budget and realize that most of their budget is going to be eaten up with electricity and foundation work when they really wanted the cute little kitchen and…

Kyle: Yeah, the ship lap siding.

Miriam: Right. You know, I wanted the farmhouse sink and all the other things. And operations is like that. It’s the foundation, it’s the electricity, it’s the plumbing. It’s all the things that are not forward or front-facing that people would immediately walk into your organization and say, oh, you spent money on that, that’s so cool. So we have to bring it home as to what this means to your organization to have operational efficiency and what it looks like to gain that.

Kyle: For listeners who don’t know a lot about Build, we help facilitate the selection of new technology. But I think oftentimes embedded in that is a belief that the technology itself is going to change the organization. So, this will enable us to communicate better, as an example. But the thing is, culturally they don’t communicate very well. And I’m making up an example, but the senior leadership team meets once a quarter, and that’s not enough. And technology is not going to fix that in and of itself.

Miriam: Exactly, exactly. Another analogy is, you build a home. You want a blueprint and then from the blueprint it will help you determine what tools and equipment you need to build the house. Most folks want to go out and get the equipment and the tools and have those tools and equipment tell them how to build the house. That’s not how this works.

And what assessments do, whether it’s an operational assessment, a technology assessment, any of those assessments, what they do is help you blueprint so that you can find the right tool that’s going to give you the product that you’re looking for.

Kyle: Yeah. We’re not magicians. We’re leading people through a process to help find the right tool with creating the understanding that the tool can only go so far. There’s a ton of things upstream of that. And we all know the apex predator is culture. See, I learned. I already integrated it into my work.

Miriam: I love it. I love it.

Kyle: Some of the clients that we work with actually do work directly with clients. So examples might be a food bank or a community foundation that’s working with donors and recipients or someone who puts on educational programming, mentoring, et cetera.

When you’re assessing culture, is it important to understand the experiences of those external audiences around culture, to get their interpretation of a culture?

How do you bring external views of how people perceive a culture? How do you bring that into the work that you do?

Miriam: Typically, we’re focused on the internal aspect of culture. And I’ll tell you why. Because if you have a problem internally and you haven’t accepted it, you won’t accept it from external sources either.

If you as an organization don’t view yourself as having some issues in your culture, you’re definitely not going to believe that other people believe that about us. So we really look at how we work together as an organization, our teams, how it is that we feel about one another because if you don’t do the internal work, it makes it difficult to do the external work.

And we could say that about ourselves. So if we aren’t willing to recognize that we have some challenges in life, that we really aren’t as good as we think we are in whatever aspect that is, then it’s difficult for us to really help others in those same areas or it’s difficult for us to accept the feedback from others in those areas. Without doing some of this internal work, this internal reflection, self reflection, then the external work is not as meaningful or impactful. And so that’s where we start.

Kyle: That especially resonates with me because part of the conversation you and I had before we started recording today was about the internal changes that we’ve had to make to be able to activate the things we want to do in our professional lives, our spiritual lives, all of those things.

That’s why I wish we recorded the whole conversation because it really crystallized what you just said that most of the work that we have to do is internal so that we could be our best selves, externally and the same with the organization, I would think.

Miriam: I will say too, that sometimes in our work we recognize that there may be opportunities for feedback from customers and clients, but it’s very strategic in why and when we do that.

For example, because we do leadership coaching and consulting as well, we may have the need for a 360 evaluation to be done because maybe a high-ranking leader can’t get the right feedback internally because of who they are.

And so when we do a 360 evaluation on leadership, you’re asking folks who report up to give feedback, folks who are your peers to give feedback, and those who you report to, it could be board members or it could be clients. And that way we’re getting a full view of a leader’s capacity. And in that case, we do need to get that external feedback because people sometimes can be intimidated to give that sort of feedback internally. So that’s when we may do that. So it’s not that we don’t, but we’re very strategic about when it is that we do.

Kyle: Yeah. A big part of what Build does in technology projects is bring in change management early and talk about the need for change management. And throughout our conversations, I’ve heard you talk about change management as well even if you haven’t labeled it as such.

I’m wondering what’s the intersection between culture and change management because I don’t think we explicitly talk about culture in the work that we do and I know that you more explicitly talk about it. So how do those things weave together and how do they fit?

Miriam: One of the things I say often is that culture is systemic and it must be changed systematically. So culture, being systemic, is a part of everything that you do; it’s their shared beliefs, behaviors, and your shared practices.

(Culture is) Beliefs, behaviors and practices that influence how your organization does what it does. So it’s just systemic, it’s a part of everything that you do.

Well, in order to make those changes, to transform an organization, we have to take it piece by piece, very systematically to understand

  • what it is that we’re trying to transform and then
  • how do we transform it and then
  • how do we maintain change?

So change management has to be built in because there are some accountabilities that need to be in place for one, the change to take effect and then two, for it to be maintained. So we use a lot of those change management principles to identify solutions that can be maintained.

And so that’s the sort of the crossroads, if you will, between culture and change management. The transformation of culture is systematic and change management helps provide the system for culture to be transformed and maintained.

Kyle: Yeah, that’s super helpful. I’m really curious about when your work around assessing culture, when you’ve gotten to the point that you begin to understand it better yourself and you reflect it back to your clients, I’m really curious how they react.

And I’m very curious, are people scared of this process? I’m curious about how people and organizations embrace your work and perhaps at times are resistant to your work and how do you navigate that?

Miriam: Well, typically when we provide the assessment report the response is usually, yeah, we knew that, I felt that, but I wasn’t quite sure of that. So it’s confirmation that what we were experiencing is really what we need to work on. That’s one type of response.

The other type of response that we get is that we knew something was wrong, we just could not put our finger on it. We’re experiencing these pain points. We have high turnover, we have stagnant initiatives, we have leadership vacancies or we have internal chaos, you know, lots of distrust amongst our staff and all those sorts of things. We knew something was going on, but we could not put our finger on it. And this is it. You’ve helped us understand. The biggest thing that we can do for an organization is bring clarity.

Kyle: People who are listening to this podcast for a while, they’ll know that one of the things that I’m really interested in, both in my work with Build and then in my personal life, is design.

Not being a professional designer, I often don’t know what it is about a space that’s making me feel a certain way. But if somebody can label it for me and say, well, this is why you’re feeling this way, it’s incredibly helpful and it’s also really frustrating that I can’t figure that out myself.

That’s what immediately came to mind when you were talking about culture is that you have the ability to distill something that they have a sense of, but they can’t quite put their finger on.

Miriam: Yeah. And I say this as well, I never want to label a leader as being one who is ineffective or incompetent.

Most of the time, it’s not a competency issue. It’s a proximity issue. You’re just so close to the work all the time that it’s hard for you to get above the fray at the 50,000 foot level, without the emotional attachment, to really objectively see what your organization may be struggling with and how to move it forward.

So it’s not a competency issue, it’s proximity. And giving your example with the room, you’re in that room all the time. It’s the same room. You see it all the time. You know what the pieces are, you know where the furniture is, you know where things are arranged. You’re like what is it about this room? You’re always in it.

And someone else with a fresh perspective comes and says, oh, this lamp, it’s just not in the right place, or this couch,you’re putting it on the side and now you’re sitting on the couch.

I think, when you bring a consultant in, they bring a fresh perspective that’s not clouded with the emotional baggage, I’ll say, that comes along with being the person who has to make all the decisions and has to be right and has to get things done. It just wears you out, it’s tiring.

And so to have someone else come in and say, hey, have you thought about this? Many times it’s either confirmation or clarity. So confirming what you thought was already going on or providing clarity for what you couldn’t figure out. And that’s the benefit of bringing in consultants to help with providing solutions for issues that cannot be solved internally.

Kyle: Yeah. We had a client a number of years ago. Before our involvement, many years before our involvement; they were perpetually getting a lot of comments on their financial audit. And what that turned into was this goal of having audits that had zero comments associated with them. And then you can imagine the operational and process pieces that got put into place to prevent any comments from happening.

And years later the processes sounded like they were processes out of 1915. Like you take this and you put it in the red folder and then when it’s through, it goes to the yellow folder.

They knew the processes were onerous and crazy, but they didn’t really understand that the whole culture of everything they did was around risk mitigation. You said earlier it prevented agility. And there is the buzzword of today’s podcast. I had not sounded consultanty and buzz worthy. It really had prevented them from moving quickly because so much protection had been erected.

And having said all that, what comes to mind is that it was a pillar of their culture based on what you’ve shared. Preventing comments on the audit was almost their culture.

Miriam: Mm-hmm. Risk mitigation was their culture.

And so it probably was pervasive in other areas too, because once you felt like you’ve been danged, once or twice you’re like, oh, not going there again.

You’re not only trying to put things in place in that one area, you’re trying to do that for the entire organization because we are going to make sure that we don’t fall into the hot water again.

And so I would say that a lot of that can be put into being very process oriented. So then we have a different culture where we’re focused on processes all the time which overshadows strategy and overshadows the people and what they need to get work done efficiently.

Archetypes of Culture

We at 180 Management Group have come up with our own assessment tool that is a mix between a readiness for change assessment and a cultural assessment.

In an operations audit, we use that to come up with what we call archetypes of culture. And so we have seven different archetypes of culture and they’re based on people, planning and processes and the mixes thereof.

You have Myers Briggs and you have the different personality types, those archetypes. We have one for businesses. We call it your business personality.

Your organization has its own personality. And so what we look at is whether or not you’re heavy on the people side, heavy on the process side or heavy on the planning or strategy side and you may be a mix of two.

But what we want you to be is the ideal which is the balance of all three. And so when we do the assessment, we come up with what the archetype is. Are you heavy here, heavy there? What do we need to work on to bring you back in balance? And usually that entails whether or not you need infrastructural type things in place, or whether you need some technological support, whether you need some people management skills and support.

We’re looking at all those things to bring you back in balance as an organization because when that organization is balanced, that’s when they see the gains. That’s when they see the success in transforming the organization to get where they want to go.

So we do provide that assessment, that tool, we call it the Groundwork tool because without it, you’re not able to really see the gains or to get where you want to go. But that tool, I do believe, is what helps us to create the strategies that are going to be most effective because if you don’t know where an organization is imbalanced, it’s hard to provide the strategy that’s going to bring them back in balance and give them the tools to do that.

Kyle: I am going to let you go because I could keep going for hours and hours and I know you’re currently a student, a business owner, you’ve got a congregation. This has been an amazing conversation because a lot of our listeners are folks who are taking on major technology change projects. I know you’ve encountered them early in your career, so ERP projects or CRM projects.

What are the things that would be signals for them that they really need to get thinking about their culture in advance of taking those [tech] projects on? What would be the things they should be thinking about?

Miriam: There are a couple of things.

  • If there’s a culture in your organization where we speak negatively about technology, whether it’s individually or institutionally, that’s a symptom that you can’t ignore.
  • If you have an organization that has had several attempts at implementing technology and all of them have failed, fallen flat, that’s a symptom you cannot ignore.
  • If you have several types of technological programs or software that you’re using within your organization and none of them are fully implemented, that is a symptom that you should not ignore. So when I say fully implemented, we’re using the new software and we’re still putting things on paper. We’re still using the old and the new software. The implementation of what you were trying to accomplish with this new software is just not fully there, it’s not fully developed.

So there are different things that if you start thinking about your organization and your need for new tech, think about how you’re currently using tech, what you’re currently saying about tech, and what your current track record is with tech. Those are the things that you would want to be thinking about from a symptom standpoint as to what you may encounter as difficult things to get around if you’re trying to work on a new tech strategy or new implementation. Not that they can’t be overcome, but it’s about self reflection, right?

Kyle: It’s about looking, right. And the external part is the technology. So that’s what I heard and what you said. Don’t blame the tech.

Miriam: Don’t blame the tech.

Kyle: Don’t blame the tech. I mean, not that it doesn’t happen, but it’s not about the technology.

And don’t blame the IT people either.

Miriam: I will tell you that IT people love to see me come in because they’re like, I couldn’t say it, but I’m glad you said it.

Kyle: Yeah, so many times people are like, I’ve been saying this for years. I needed to bring Build Consulting in to say that. They’re going to hear more than they were able to hear from us.

Miriam: Yes, this is true. And then again, another reason why you may want to bring someone from the outside into the organization is because leaders are frustrated. They’ve said the same thing for the last five, 10 years and someone new comes in and says it and then the staff is like, oh my gosh, that’s so great. And the leader is like, I’ve been saying this forever, but definitely an opportunity there.

Kyle: Absolutely. Well, again, thank you so much for your time. How can people find you? You’re at 180 Management Group. What’s a good way for folks to connect with you?

Miriam: Oh, my gosh. We are trying to really leverage LinkedIn as much as we possibly can because there’s an opportunity for us to have live discussions and for us to let you know when we have free opportunities or maybe even some masterminds, building community, for those who are operations leaders who are looking to make sure that they have folks that they can relate to and have a community of folks that they belong with. Operations minded folks tend to feel a little isolated in many regards.

And so, we’re really trying to build community on LinkedIn. You can find me directly on LinkedIn by searching Miriam P. Dicks or you can visit our website at

You can find us there and learn more about what it is that we do and services that we offer. And also we have a LinkedIn page for our organization as well. So any of those ways you can find us and find me directly, so, looking forward to connecting with you there.

Kyle: Miriam, thank you so much for your time today. Learned a ton about culture, have learned about apex predators and I think most importantly, what I learned is that it’s incredibly important for any organization to understand their culture before they take on any significant project. Thanks again.

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