What are UGRs?

Companies and the teams within companies across the globe are looking for ways to improve. This search for improvement centres on two broad issues:

  • How to increase bottom line performance, and
  • How to make the organisation a better place to work.

It is generally agreed nowadays that the key issue that underpins improvements in profitability and teamwork is the organisation's culture. Strangely, while most people agree that team culture is vitally important, very few people understand culture in simple and practical terms. This is where UGRs® plays its part!UGRs stands for unwritten ground rules. UGRs a people's perceptions of "this is the way we do things around here". UGRs drive people's behaviour, but they are rarely if ever talked about openly.

You will find plenty of resources to help you understand the importance of UGRs. There is even the entire book on UGRs which you can download and read.

The Five Step Process

Step 1: Envision

Clarify the Key Cultural Attributes (KCAs) necessary for the organisation’s future success (or alternatively, reaffirm the organisation’s Value Statements)

This step of the UGRs process involves identifying the kind of culture that is necessary for the organisation's future success.

There are two ways to do this - first, by confirming a focus on the organisation's Vales Statements if they exist, or second by identifying KCAs.

KCAs stands for Key Cultural Attributes. These are generated by asking this important question:

What are the Key Cultural Attribues we need in place to ensure our future success?

We have developed a tool to help identify these. A final list of no more than eight should be identified.
Once the Values or KCAs have been identified, the next step in the UGRs process can be focused on.

Step 2: Assess

Evaluate the current culture in terms of the KCAs (or existing Value Statements), and implement improvements based on that evaluation In this section, we have some resources related to the important stage of assessing the current UGRs. Sometimes called a 'UGRs Stocktake', this section shows how to undertake a UGRs assessment, and what to do with the results.

What is a UGRs Stock Take?

A UGRs assessment or ‘stocktake’ enables you to get a fix on current or prevailing UGRs. There’s a really simple way of doing a stocktake – you simply get people to think about the organisation in terms of ‘this is the way we really do things around here’, and then to complete the sentence to various lead-in sentences.
The lead-in sentences can include:
Around here, safety is…
Around here, being open and honest gets you…
Around here, if you mess up…

A complete bank of possible lead in sentences is available in the resources section (below). There are two options in terms of getting people to do the UGRs stocktake – one is manual, the other is electronic.

The Manual Approach

We recommend you do this after you have introduced people to the UGRs concept. You give people up to four index cards (or pieces of paper) and ask them to complete the sentence to the same number of lead-in sentences, one per index card.

Instruct them not to write their name on the paper – you want to keep it anonymous..

After each sentence has been completed, collect the index cards so that all responses are grouped. Repeat this for every lead-in sentence.

Warning – do NOT do this too many times, as people will lose interest and their responses will be less valid. Our thinking is that around four or five is the maximum number.

After you have completed the lead-in sentences, there are two options open to you:

You can divide the group up into four small groups, and give each group one set of lead-in sentences. You should instruct them to:

  • Calculate the percentage of positive, neutral and negative responses
  • Talk about what the key messages are from the responses
  • Assess the extent to which the responses impact negatively on bottom line performance (on a scale ranging from 0 to 10 where 10 is bad!)
  • You can take them away and analyse them outside of the session

The Electronic (or web based) Approach

We have the facility at the UGRs.net web site to agree on a set of up to 12 lead-in sentences to place into a dedicated web page. We deliberately limit this to 12 lead-in sentences to ensure people will not lose interest when completing it.

At the UGRs web site, after each lead in sentence is completed we ask the respondent to categorise whether  their response has a positive, neutral or negative impact on the organisation overall. This self analysis allows us to report on the percentage of positive, neutral and negative responses for each lead-in sentence.

In addition we can include up to three demographics for your organisation. These demographics can include the respondent's division, whether they are management or non-management, the geographical location etc.

The demographic data enables us to analyse results based on each of the demographics collected.

How Should A UGRs Stocktake Be Analysed?

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Sample Stock Take Report

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Bank of Possible Lead-In Sentences

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Step 3: Teach

Familiarise as many people as possible, and especially leaders, with the UGRs concept

In our experience, simply giving people an awareness of UGRs can often, of itself, improve the culture. That's because UGRs makes so much sense to people -- individuals might not quite understand how their behaviour connects to values statements for example, but people certainly understand UGRs!

This means that everyone needs to learn about UGRs -- and we mean everyone!

There are two broad options for you to give people an awareness of the UGRs concept:

  • You can use the videos at this site featuring Steve Simpson, and facilitate discussion after people have watched the videos
  • You can do it yourself!

Using the videos

If you are going to use the videos, you need to follow this sequence:

The importance of culture (optional) –

This talks about how important culture is in an organisation. It refers to the impressive values statements at Enron, and aspects of NASA’s culture that led to the disaster involving the Columbia space shuttle where  even lives were lost. This should be considered optional – you be the judge of whether this would be of any value to the audience.

VIDEO - The importance of culture

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Facilitator Guide - Importance Of Culture

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PowerPoint Slides

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Introduction to UGRs (NECESSARY) –

This introduces the concept of UGRs and gives sample UGRs. This is the key video that must be shown in our experience, simply giving people an awareness of UGRs can often, of itself, improve the culture. That's because UGRs makes so much sense to people -- individuals might not quite understand how their behaviour connects to values statements for example, but people certainly understand UGRs! This means that everyone needs to learn about UGRs -- and we mean everyone!

VIDEO - Introduction to UGRs (NECESSARY)

VIEW VIDEO

Some thoughts for UGRs Champions...

One of your key tasks is to teach other people about UGRs and to get their involvement in the UGRs process. We recommend you run two separate sessions with people as follows:

The first to teach people about UGRs and to share the outcomes of the Stock Take, including getting people's views on areas of concern and what might realistically be done to address these

The second to get people's views on the positive UGRs by which they would like to characterise the organisation into the future.

Here's some support resources to help you facilitate each of these sessions...

The First Session

We've assembled some Powerpoint slides and linkages to videos to help you run this session. The files are as follows (right click to save files - some of which are large):

An introduction to UGRs - Powerpoint file is here . The videos below need to be inserted into the Powerpoint file

The first video in the file (Intro to UGRs) is here (right click and hit 'Save'). You can also see the video online here

The second video in the file (Monkey story) is here (right click and hit 'Save'). You can also see the video online here

The third video in the file (UGRs research) is here (right click and hit 'Save'). You can also see the video online here

In addition, you will also need to share the outcomes from the Stock Take.

The Second Session

The second session with people should involve them crafting positive UGRs linked to the Values statements or KCAs.

A video explaining how to do this is here - and this can be shown at the session

Facilitator Guide - Introducing UGRs

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PowerPoint Slides - Introduction To UGRs

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Participant Workbook - Introduction To UGRs

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Identifying UGRs at work (optional) –

This talks about how you can use UGRs to identify what is really happening in the workplace. It’s a good video to get people thinking about how UGRs really apply.

VIDEO - Identifying UGRs at work

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PowerPoint Slides - Identifying UGRs In The Workplace

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Facilitator Guide - Identifying UGRs In The Workplace

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The monkey story (NECESSARY) –

This is the classic story that everyone loves – it’s a must show

VIDEO - The monkey story (NECESSARY)

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PowerPoint Slides - The Monkey Story

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Facilitator Guide - The Monkey Story

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The World-First Study into UGRs (NECESSARY) –

This talks about how UGRs were first studied and reveals the technique of using ‘Around here…’ to determine current UGRs

VIDEO - The World-First Study into UGRs (NECESSARY)

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PowerPoint Slides - World Fist Research Into UGRs

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Participant Workbooks - World First Research Into UGRs

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Facilitator Guide - World First Research Into UGRs

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Step 4: Involve

Involve people in creating and prioritising aspirational positive UGRs - linked to the KCAs or Value Statements - by which they would like to characterise the organisation into the future

Once people have a good understanding of UGRs we can get them involved in creating positive UGRs they would like to characterise their team. This can, and should be a positive and uplifting experience. To do this, you need people to be working in groups of between five and eight people. Explain that they will be creating positive UGRs that they would like to characterise the team into the future. They will simply be completing a sentence "around here…”, and they will be saying it as though it already exists.

It is really important that you get people thinking about two important criteria in creating these positive UGRs. These are:

  • What positive UGRs do we need to have in place to ensure this is a great place to work?
  • What positive UGRs do we need in place to ensure we are highly successful into the future?

To get this started, you may wish to invite people to suggest a positive UGR so that people fully understand what you asking them to do. Sample positive UGRs could include:

  • Around here, everyone's contributions are recognised.
  • Around here, we offer to help others when we think they might need it.
  • Around here, people's ideas are genuinely listened to.

You might also like to give people the following tip about creating positive UGRs -- one way to create positive UGRs is to think about something you don't like that is happening now, and to flip it around to the positive. For example, one person once said that they did not like the amount of negative gossip that was happening in the workplace. When asked to flip this around to the positive, this person's positive UGR was:

Around here, people are approached directly and constructively when there is a problem.

It is important that people record their positive UGRs from the group work, preferably on a flip chart.
As people are creating their positive UGRs, take note of how they are being worded. Ensure that the positive UGRs are being written as though they are already happening. If people are using the word "should", ask them to change this. For example:

Around here, people should respect one another. This needs to be changed to:

Around here, people respect one another

Workbook - Creating Positive UGRs

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Facilitator Guide - Ending The Session

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Why Positive UGRs Are Not ‘Fantasy Land’

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How To Prioritise Positive UGRs

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Facilitator Guide - Creating Positive UGRs

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Step 5: Embed

Identify and implement strategies to embed the aspirational positive UGRs

Once the prioritised positive UGRs have been created for a team, the hard work begins! The final, and most difficult of the five steps for using UGRs to boost culture related to identifying practical strategies that can translate the 'talk' into reality. It's all about embedding the positive UGRs.

Facilitator Guide - Implementation Strategies

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PowerPoint - Implementation Strategies

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The Non-Negotiable Strategies

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Workbook - Implementation Strategies

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PowerPoint - Indirect Implementation Strategies

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Facilitator Guide - Indirect Implementation Strategies

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Workbook - Indirect Implementation Strategies

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Facilitator Guide - Non-Management Staff And UGRs

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Full Report On The Survey Of Non-Management Staff And UGRs

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