Friday, August 7, 2015

How to Change the Culture - The Collective Habit Effectively

Culture = the collective habits of people. 

To change your culture, it’s about changing the habits of your people. We all know how challenging would be to change a bad habit; at corporate level, culture eats strategy for breakfast, but changing the collective habit of people is one of the most difficult things in running a high performing business; and at national or global level, changing an outdated culture that perhaps existing for centuries is like boiling an ocean. It is a tough journey, but in order to make a collective progress and advance humanity, shall we or can we make it work?  

The strategy is the direction of travel, culture is the mode of transport: If you can't change the habits of your people by encouraging the positive ones and challenging the negative ones, then there’s no way you can move up your organizational agility (change capability) and maturity. So the first step you need to change the people’s mindset, how do they think, and why do they think what they think. Or you have to apply scientific or Systems Thinking to perceive the soft, but the most invisible human factor like the culture which is not an isolated social phenomenon, but collective minds and attitudes weaved by many other elements based on psychology, customs, history, religion, or philosophy. When you understand the interconnectivity and root causes, you may well define a starting point to break it through, absorb the quintessential, but remove or discourage the negative mindset or attitudes.     

Identify the change champions: It seems to be who we are is essential to the way we do what we do and how well we do it. Culture supports self-actualization, aka Authenticity, will be a significant motivational force in meeting the challenges of business in the 21st Century, especially in managing the Millennials and today’s cross-generational and cross-cultural workforces. An essential first step is to find the people that already want to play the game change. You can never take everyone with you for a change. Even when the business has no other options, it is essential to have enough key people who are keen to take the journey with you. Mandating both the change and who's going to execute it, in disregard of individual autonomy, is a big part of what causes change initiatives to fail. This is due to the dependency on discretionary effort for change initiatives to succeed. The change to be made, the reasons for it, and the various roles in the change have to be properly articulated, and it is then up to the Change Manager to deliver it. In such situations, changing people’s mindset has been fundamental to changing the culture and the success of the program - making change optional or only fixing the symptom, not a root cause, is a recipe for failure.

Leaders have to present the change agility in their professional or personal life in order to lead change or drive transformation effectively: The basis is a leader that is right for the job, which is often more about personality than degrees! The drive and the thinking of the leader will either be a driving force or a show stopper. With the right leader, the positive culture will develop and the negative forces will be limited. Bottom line: make sure you pick your leader that supports the way you want to develop the organization along the change journey. Sadly there will always be a few who are just not willing or capable of making the changes. One of the key strategies will be how to deal with them if they start causing problems. People, Process and Technology in that order with the right people you can get good results. Add good processes and the results get better. Add Technology to automate and the results get even better. But you have to start with the right people, which really means great culture and great leadership throughout.

No doubt that culture change is more complicated than any other types of changes such as software update or an organizational restructure. Culture change is a slow and complicated process. In other words, culture is more powerful than strategy if you are not able to explain the value capture behind it. And frequently people are not open to value capture because they are shocked, angry or something else not constructive. You need a winning coalition who will enable the spread of the faith. It can be a long democratic process or a tough turnaround. Still, even it’s like to “boil the ocean,” you have to think the most effective way to do it, for your organization’s long-term prosperity.  


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