PRINZ Conference 2013 blog 6 – Internal culture engagement – competing or collaborating?

Michele Kelly, Communications Advisor at Wise Management Services Ltd

Annemarie Mora, communication and stakeholder relations manager, SCIRT

Annemarie Mora, communication and stakeholder relations manager, SCIRT

“You’ve got to get it right internally, if you want to get it right externally.”  Those were the words of Annemarie Mora – ones which despite their logic, are often forgotten by organisations in the midst of focusing on external engagement.

Annemarie is the communication and stakeholder relations manager for the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT), the organisation undertaking the rebuild of Christchurch’s damaged, roads, fresh water, waste water and stormwater networks.

SCIRT is an alliance between Christchurch City Council, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, and the New Zealand Transport Agency. SCIRT contracts alliance partners to deliver the rebuild projects – of which there can be up to 150 at any one time.

“They’ve all got skin in the game,” said Annemarie, meaning the alliance partners are bound by a commercial model in which they all either succeed or fail together.

Wow – with so many internal stakeholders, in such a high-risk situation and with the public’s interest in SCIRT’s actions and outcomes undoubtedly increased tenfold, it’s no small wonder SCIRT place such a huge emphasis on internal engagement.

So what does Annemarie identify as being keys to driving internal culture engagement?

  1. Competing AND collaborating. It’s not just one or the other – there needs to be a healthy dose of both. Although this point is particularly relevant to the unique set-up of SCIRT, it’s something I’m sure we can all implement across our various organisations and businesses.Encouraging competition in a moderated, friendly environment can help lift performance and stimulate robust debate, and is one way of aiding team and inter-team collaboration.
  2. Team purpose statements.  We set external purpose statements, so why not internal ones? They can help guide and shape teams’ dealings with internal and external clients and stakeholders.
  3. Know which hat you’re wearing. This is particularly relevant to organisations made up of multiple partners or sub brands, and also important to keep in mind when working on joint initiatives. Practice leaving your own organisation’s objectives or usual ways of doing things at the door, and thinking about what’s best for the group or project at hand.

Slightly experimental in nature, SCIRT has shown a knack for sparking and harnessing innovation from its staff. I for one will be watching with interest over the coming years as they are guaranteed to teach us all many valuable lessons.

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