‘Things do not change, we change”
– Henry Thoreau
An organisation’s culture has a direct effect on its ability to achieve its strategic priorities.
“Culture operates at many levels and certainly “how we do things around here” is the surface level. I like to think of culture to be like the lily pond. On the surface, you’ve got leaves and flowers and things that are very visible. That’s the “how we do things around here” but the explanation of why we do things in that way forces you to look at the root system, what’s feeding it and the history of the pond, who planted what. If you don’t dig down into the reasons for why we do things this way you’ve only looked at the culture at a very superficial level and you haven’t really understood it.” Edgar Schein.
VA Consultant’s approach to culture change pulls in equal measure on our extensive experience working with businesses in this area and on our research into leading transformational culture change. Our experience tells us that culture change is hard and demands leadership patience and resilience. It takes time and is a highly emergent process requiring systemic (rather that systematic) thinking. Chances of success can be increased by:
- Identifying a critical business issue and use it as a catalyst for culture change which increases initial traction of a culture change initiative, sustain the organisations commitment to culture change and provide a visible narrative and rationale to the rest of the organisation about why the status quo needs shaking up.
- Articulating and communicating a compelling vision for the future: Communicate a compelling ‘Towards State’ that engages and excites employees, taps into their positive energy and commitment, creates connections and encourages aligned behaviour.
- Developing advocacy sponsorship and leadership at all levels, people must be empowered. Leadership from the top has a critical role in change.
- Mitigating against cultural derailers:
- Blame Culture – any elements of a culture where there is a need to search for someone or something to attribute lapses, mistakes or misdeeds, will undermine a culture change initiative.
- Good News Culture – parts of a culture that refuse to listen to operational realities that are not going as planned or where there is an undercurrent of making leaders look good will create flawed foundations for culture change and need to be mitigated against.