6 Insights for a Culture Change

February 27, 2019 by  

One of the greatest business challenges is effectively changing workplace culture. In order to do that, you must understand the underlying issues involved in order to make it happen. In addition, you need to answer all the questions and concerns that people may have and provide them with the compelling reasons why this change is going to be beneficial to everyone.

Here are some insights to consider when making a culture change:

Insight #1: Culture is the key to success and the key to the long term survival of any business
It is easier to decide on change than to get people to change. The more companies looked at, it seemed most were a bit like dysfunctional families. They had turf issues and trust issues, resistance to change, and it was very easy to do things in some companies, but it was almost impossible in others.
The greatest predictor of a company’s future is its culture. That culture is created and maintained by the leadership.

Insight #2 – The “Jaws of Culture” chew up most initiatives
Most companies invest in their strategy, initiatives, processes, and structure. All those issues have to go through the “Jaws of Culture”. The jaws are the dysfunctions of an organization:
• Are there turf issues or is it one company?
• Do people blame one another when things don’t work or are they accountable?
• Is there a positive spirit in the organization?
• Do people feel appreciated?

The primary Jaws of Culture in most organizations today are a lack of collaboration and agility and not much of a learning mindset for the kind of world we are in. No matter what the initiative is, those issues are going to chew it up, and those are the “Jaws of Culture”.

Insight #3: Creating a “one company” culture
Culture has really hit the tipping point because, in addition to the need for agility, most companies are very fragmented. Most big corporations today are a collection of acquisitions or geographies or business units or product lines; they aren’t one company. Truthfully, if they are going to survive, they really can’t afford to be fragmented today. In order to establish trust and rapport with the customer, control costs effectively and in the end just be successful, an organization needs to present itself with a united front. So, sadly there are very few fully integrated companies.

The answer is creating an allied or shared business model, and that only works with the right culture. It means creating a culture where decisions are made for the greater good with everybody having some common higher cause and being part of the process. Creating one company is critical today for big corporations to succeed.

Insight #4 – Diagnose the organization, Create your From-To model
Every organization has a culture. The only question is: Does it shape you or do you shape it?
In most organizations, people just step in and pick up behaviours of people who are there. That’s what culture is about, and yet you can systematically and intentionally shape a culture if you model it and commit to it.

Step 1 is to diagnose the organization. Given what you are facing, what are the behaviours you need and what are the behaviours you have? At this moment in time, in order to execute your strategies, what are those shifts you need to make happen and how will you make those shifts? That’s the diagnostic.

Step 2 is to then create a “From-To” model: Shift from being hierarchical to being more empowering. Shift from being siloed to being more collaborative with better lines of communication. Shift from being resistant to change to being very agile and open to change.

Insight #5 – Culture shaping needs to start at the top
Culture shaping definitely needs to start at the top of the organization. The principal issue here is that organizations become “Shadows of Their Leaders”. You affect your company so if you commit to the particular culture and model it, it will be more likely to be mirrored by those around you.

Insight #6 – Engineer ‘aha moments’ to shift thinking and behaviour
The challenge faced is how do you change habits of adults? Here is a thought: When we are young, we are like a flowing river, and then we freeze.” We get stuck in our habits. So how can be get ‘unstuck’? That only happens if we decide we want to change and then commit to doing what is necessary to make it happen.

Most models of change today are behavioural models. People define a set of values and then they communicate them. They talk to people about them. That doesn’t necessarily tend to change people. We all know we should do things that we don’t do.

So in the end, what does change people? It often takes some sort of wake up call to truly get someone’s attention and make them really consider embracing the change that is necessary. So how do we create those “aha” moments???

Here is an example: Do you remember when your mom told you if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all? So, that’s an underlying belief you likely espouse.
Then, you can have an insight that says, “As a leader, if you work for me, my job is to help develop you so that you can fulfill your potential. In fact, I need to show you that I appreciate your contributions and provide constructive feedback so that you can grow. If I do those things, I will be a good leader and be of benefit to everyone and the organization.
So, if you can have that shift in mindset through an epiphany, and change that behaviour, then you are going to really execute differently going forward. So, the next step in the process is to “unfreeze.” In other words, in order to make people want to change, you must offer reasons to change their mindset and allow your people to be able to accept the new idea and then make that their new mindset.

In the end, this mostly boils down to how effective the leadership of any organization is. The better they are at communicating with impact, honesty, clarity and influence, the more likely they are to have a great culture and to be able to affect change in their organization as it is necessary.

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