Pour off your old habits – Organizational Culture Change

If you talk to any change consultant he will probably state that changing the culture of an organization is the hardest piece of work in his job. He will be harried even more when he has to transform a culture instead of creating a new…if a company has established any form of culture (and may it be the most crappiest one), all the stuff I wrote about in my last post already has happened for years: people interacted within this culture and formed it out in their interpretation – so probably the consultant will feel like David in front of Goliath.

As written in my last post, too the prevalent organizational culture is often an echo of the dominating management style in the company. This results out of two very simple facts:

  1. Leaders tend to hire people that resemble themselves
  2. You will only survive in any kind of organization if you fit-in

As learned before any culture grows over time and so does the organizational culture. Driven by the facts No.1 and 2 as well as the fact that people like to keep up a status quo the once got familiar with, something very significant must happen to make people think about Change. Such events tend to occur most likely in the shape of a crisis, maybe a massive loss of customers, a significant drop of the stock price or declining sales.

So let us imagine that the leaders of an organization have realized that their current culture needs to be transformed in order to survive. Being at this point, leaders will need support in terms of

  • using the right tools
  • creating the right level of commitment
  • establishing a high level of understanding

The major steps of organizational culture change

  1. Before any organization can change its culture, it must understand its current culture. Take your time to analyze your current state of culture.
  2. Once you did this, your organization must then decide what the new organizational culture should look like. What vision does the organization have for its future and how must the culture change to support the accomplishment of that vision?
  3. In a last step the individuals in the organization must be persuaded, instructed and guided to change their behavior in order to create the desired organizational culture and make it last.

In each of these three steps there are two important actions that must be considered: executive support and training. Maybe you can align your management for yourself but in terms of training you definitely should try to get support from external consultancies.

Executive support: Executives in the organization must support the cultural change. They must show behavioral support instead of only providing warm words (walk the talk). It is extremely important for executives to consistently support the change in all three phases.

Training: As said before culture change depends on behavior change. Members of the organization must clearly understand what is expected of them, and must know how to actually do the new behaviors, once they have been defined. Within the scope of this training you should furthermore ask the consultancies to support you in:

  • reviewing the organizational structure
  • establishing effective communication
  • creating value and belief statements
  • redesigning your approach to rewards and recognition

Always keep in mind that there is no direct ROI related to organizational culture change. Of course you can say that a successful transformation will support the accomplishment of your future business goals. But be more honest to yourself. Adapting an overcome culture is giving you the chance to exist in five more years – not more not less. This should be worth enough to invest in time, commitment and proper execution.


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