Drawing Culture Solutions from Within, and Across, the Organization

Interview with Alex McMullin, Waggl


In April 2016, Denison Consulting and Waggl, Inc. announced a strategic partnership to bring the combined strengths of Denison’s world-class consulting and assessment tools and Waggl’s real-time, crowd-sourced pulse surveys to customers seeking to transform their organizational cultures. We met recently with Waggl’s Head of Account Management and Partnerships, Alex McMullin, and asked him to reflect on the growing partnership from a customer perspective and how this partnership can help organizations in drawing culture solutions from within, and across, the organization.

Denison: From your perspective, what was the goal of linking Denison’s consulting services and product offerings with Waggl’s capabilities?

Alex: By combining Denison’s Best-in-Class consulting and assessment tools with Waggl’s innovative, crowd-sourced pulse surveys, we have created a platform that allows an organization to really understand, in real time, where they’re excelling, where there’s an opportunity to grow, and how to address it.

The Denison Organizational Culture Survey (DOCS) captures great data and displays it in a really clear visual format for leaders to understand where opportunity for improvement exists. But often, there’s a need for deeper insight on particular points, or a need to discover internal solutions for those opportunities. Waggl provides the opportunity for the organization—or departments, or business units—to go to their people and ask, “Why is this a big issue?” or “Why did we receive that score?” or “How do we fix that?” and get immediate, actionable answers.

Denison: So, what Waggl brings to the table is the ability to drill down on very specific issues within problem areas revealed by DOCS, and get employees’ take on what’s really going on.

Alex: Ultimately, leaders know that the answers to their organization’s issues are within the organization. What Waggl allows them to do is to unearth or unlock the wisdom that their own people have. Layering Waggl in behind DOCS allows leaders to quickly and easily understand, in a very simple and human way, what they need to do for their teams. Waggl is focused on making things simple for the organization, simple for the leaders, and very rewarding for individual participants.

Denison: Remind us of the origin of your name, “Waggl.”

Alex: The name comes from the “waggle dance,” an incredibly successful way that honeybees communicate when they need to relocate the hive or find a new food source—in other words, when they need to transform something about how their own organization operates! They all go out, and the ones that find something good come back to the hive and communicate to the other bees, through the waggle dance, what that new hive location could be or where a new food source is. Once enough bees go out and check it out, they align in agreement about what their best options are, signaling to the hive that “this is the direction we need to move in.” It’s very democratic. All of the bees have an equal voice.

Denison: And that’s what Waggl surveys do…

Alex: Yes. After individuals respond to the open-ended question, they have the opportunity to vote on other people’s responses, surfacing the best ideas. Not the most common ideas, not the first idea, not the idea from the most senior participant, but the best ideas. In that way, leaders can easily and quickly understand what’s important and how they need to move forward. With Waggl, it’s really rewarding for the participant to see the results in real time, and then get to actually weigh in on what the results look like through the voting component.

Denison: So, this is really drawing solutions from within, and across, the organization.

Alex: We’ve had leaders refer to Waggl results as the collective intelligence, or collective brain, of the organization. It allows leaders to get insights or solutions, then iterate on those—asking follow-up questions to hone in on solutions—in a way that no platform has before. The agility and iteration that Waggl allows for ensures that you keep tightening to get better and better, rather than putting actions into place and hoping that the improvement shows on the next year’s survey.

Denison: What is the outcome you most associate with Waggl’s part in the Denison+Waggl solution?

Alex: I almost hesitate to use the word, because it can be over-used, but it results in “engagement.” The DOCS survey does an incredible job of giving a holistic view of an organization that provides insight into weak areas or areas of opportunity for specific business units, departments, etc. Waggl allows leaders to engage their teams (or business units, or the entire organization) in helping craft the solution. DOCS focuses on cultural measures. Waggl enables engagement. The Denison+Waggl solution brings them together for greater impact.

In one organization, we led off with a DOCS survey, then Waggle surveys, then DOCS again about a quarter later. The client found that, through the use of Waggl check-ins and pulse checks, their engagement score had gone up by almost 50%. At first, they dismissed that as “unreliable data.” Then they realized that the use of Waggl itself was causing that increase. Engagement was no longer just a measurement, it was a change in the process. It was that change in the process, not the change in the tool, that allowed them to be so successful.

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