Discovering Virtually



To create the culture you want, first you must understand the culture you have. That’s why our culture transformation process begins with a comprehensive research stage that we call Discover.

During a Discover phase, Interchange will take a deep dive into the organisation’s daily workings – gaining a thorough understanding of the behaviours, mindsets and values that inform its organisational culture and the systems and processes that reinforce the culture.

Depending on the organisation, we typically use a combination of different discovery techniques. Techniques that provide the best and most comprehensive insights into an organisation’s culture.

If you look closely, you may find us acting as a fly on the wall, conducting onsite observations. Or possibly engrossed in focus groups or 1-1 interviews. Or even conducting customer interviews or desktop reviews.

Historically, all of these Discover activities required us to pack our bags and head out to our client’s location. This often included air travel and face-to-face interactions.



The Challenge

At the beginning of 2020, Interchange was gearing up for a number of intensive Discover phases, with organisations in industries ranging from mining, equipment hire, construction and defence services through to government and technology.

All was going smoothly, until the world was struck by a global pandemic. Suddenly, there were no more flights, no more in-person interactions and no more workshops with post-it notes. Despite this, the show had to go on.


Empty airport as a result of COVID-19 pandemic

Empty airports post COVID-19 outbreak


As the purpose of a Discover phase is to analyse the internal culture of an organisation, the pandemic actually presented as a perfect opportunity to do this. Organisations were going through dramatic shifts, teams were dispersed, organisational values were questioned and challenges were arising left right and centre. If there was a time where an organisation’s true culture rose to the surface, this was it.


The Solution

To continue with the culture analysis while complying with the social distancing restrictions, Interchange had to shake things up and develop a new Discover process that could be performed remotely, but maintain the same level of rigour.

Since we, along with our clients, were already forced to perform somewhat of a digital transformation, utilising various pieces of communication software to get about their daily business, the Discover process became quite simple.

Getting an organisation set up with new technology would normally be half the battle, but it seems that COVID-19 had gotten almost every organisation across the globe plugged in, skilled up and ready to go.

We used video conferencing technology such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom to virtually meet with specific cross-sections of the various organisations. From the capital cities to the regional towns like Karatha – we met with them all, and it worked seamlessly.


Staff members of Interchange on a zoom call inducting their newest member of the team

The Interchangers setting up for a focus group and inducting their newest member of the team.


Throughout these organisations, we were able to host and facilitate:

  •  One-on-one conversations
  •  Focus groups
  •  Customer interviews

Every virtual meeting featured one of Interchange’s experienced management consultants, conducting a very conversational, relaxed interview that would encourage honest responses from the participants. There was also a second Interchanger (virtually) present, who would transcribe the interview, ensuring that all important information and comments were captured. The transcripts were collated and analysed to then go on and inform the different areas of opportunity for the businesses.



The Results

Although the virtual Discover method was wildly different from our typical approach, it proved to provide top quality data and insights, with many other added benefits including:



Geographical dispersion was no longer relevant, meaning that we had the opportunity to engage with a wider range of employees than what we usually could in a traditional Discover phase.

There may be one employee all the way out in Timbuctoo that we’d like to speak to, but we can’t due to the costs involved in travelling there for a single interview. It just isn’t viable.

But with the virtual approach, all of that gets thrown out the window. No matter who they are or where they’re located, their thoughts and experiences can be included in our data collection.



With the virtual Discover method came the added benefit of efficiency, which allowed our clients to receive the culture analysis faster so that they could start to take informed steps in a more positive direction.

All data was collected within the closest time proximity as humanly possible, which also negated the likelihood of any major event occurring between collection points that could possibly skew the results.

For one client, what would normally have taken months to do via the in-person method, we did in just 14 days. During this time, we were able to run 88 activities with 144 people throughout the entire country.


Close up map of Australia with a red pin in city of Sydney



The virtual approach was far less disruptive for the participants. Not one person needed to leave their workstation or office to meet with us in a separate location. They simply opened up their laptop or unlocked their mobile device, clicked on the meeting link and that was that. No matter where they were, they could gain access to the meeting.

In the current climate, the participants were already using this kind of technology on a daily basis. So, meeting this way was not at all a stretch; it was part of everyday work life.



Despite not being in the same room as the participants, the new virtual approach did not have any impact on leaders or employees honestly discussing what was working and what wasn’t working within their organisation. The tech did not seem to act as a barrier to having an honest and heartfelt conversation.



It goes without saying that the virtual method is far more cost-effective than the traditional method. To gain the best quality data, Interchange is required to meet with leaders and employees all over the country, sometimes even internationally.

As you could imagine, this becomes very costly, considering the flights, accommodation, meals, hire cars and even Uber rides – this all adds up, very, very quickly. By adopting the virtual method, Interchange was able to thoroughly explore the cultural themes within various organisations, but in a much more cost-effective manner.

With so many benefits to the Virtual Discover – Could this be the way of the future? As much as we despise COVID-19 for the devastation it has caused, it has forced us to get creative and explore new ways of doing things. In this case, it is actually for the better.


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