Monday, September 1, 2014

What's your # 1 Culture Change Principle?

Strategy, role-model, systems thinking, trust, relationship management, balance, etc. are all important culture change principles.

Culture is the collective mindset and corporate habit. Changing culture is just like to change one’s habit, it takes both discipline and persistence; besides practices, what are the key culture change principles?

 Leadership responsibility for role modeling: Leading by example is the most efficient way to achieve the goals. How goes leadership, so goes the culture. Although the leader may be the 'savior of culture, he/she can also be its 'evil cause'. It's all about context. As a leader, you have to show character and be a role model. Ultimately any so-called leader will have the ultimate responsibility and accountability for creating and maintaining a healthy culture as he or she will have for all things. When there is a need for a culture change, there are problems or ambitions, just as in every other strategy that has to be realized. And if this is a reality, the leader has to show humbleness and respect and starts to listen. If not, the leader overshadows every germ light of a new perspective. The change can never grow. In a culture change approach, or even in intercultural collaboration, humbleness, respect and listening are the key principles of successful culture shaping. Leadership is the influence that is based on the think systems – all aspects of the organization are affected by and can affect culture in a non-linear and complex way. Leaders must walk the talk, and they must also design their organization - its work and talent processes, structures, physical space, etc. so that it enables the culture to thrive. Leaders must go first and model the behavior. The leader needs to understand, respect and recognize the current culture. Without this, you run the risk of invalidating the current culture and everything that IS working. With this, you keep the opportunity open for defining and leveraging current strengths during the change process.

LEARN HOW CULTURES EVOLVE: Performance = Potential -Interference is very powerful. Identify all the interferences that are in the way of attaining the new culture and look at all the possible ways of overcoming them, select the best solutions and implement them. Organizational culture affects the manner by which people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders. In order for change to be effectively implemented within an organization, it needs to navigate through the various cultural filters that will interpret (or misinterpret) its intent, impact, and methodology. If the culture opposes the change initiative, then change will be hard to implement. People don't resist change. People resist being changed. It's like leading in the wilderness if you try to go at culture change without understanding how cultures evolve: 
- The need to focus on business challenges, problems or goals and how culture is helping and Involvement. In principle, the strong involvement of the people being changed is a good way to enhance cultural understanding and commitment.holding back results versus "general culture improvement work." 
- Understanding that results are necessary for any new cultural attribute to form and clearly focusing on areas that support the shared purpose of the organization. Think undisputed business / organizational results and not the improvement of survey results (even if that may be leading indicators).                      
Clearly defining values and specific expected behaviors and providing a framework in which to operate (strategy, structure, people, processes & rewards) that supports those behaviors.
If you are truly interested in culture change then you need to understand how cultures evolve to dramatically accelerate the process and to increase the likelihood of sustainable culture change. If the organization has what is termed a 'chaos' platform (the organization defines, enables and allows leadership rather than the other way around), then no matter how hard you attempt to formulate the 'perfect leader' it will be to no avail if the organization’s culture will thwart the good intent. In such situations, you need to temper the culture before you can change it.

The system thinking for framing structural culture change: Culture is the product of three key interventions; leader and leadership behavior (what is done, how it is done, etc.); consistent organizational storytelling; design, development, and alignment of organizational systems and processes so that they reinforce the desired outcome. Doing one without the other will not get you there. The leadership team has to ensure that the managers are skilled up and have the tools to plan how to support the new culture to the rest of the staff. Regular measurement of the actions is also a prerequisite so the leadership knows they are on the right track. What often gets overlooked is the 'reason why' for the cultural change, be it externally or internally driven. First, if the culture change requires the social system (made up of employees) to behave differently, there must be permission to practice those behaviors until they become ingrained. In that same vein, structural changes need to be made to support the "new" culture. If business scorecards, awards, and recognition, policies, and procedures still drive behaviors from the "old" culture, having the leader model behaviors that are different from what is being measured and rewarded will just lead to more confusion.

Building trust within the management team (first), then building it between management and the workforce: Without trust, change becomes a game that everybody plays, but nobody wins. Without trust, growth potential cannot be accessed because people will not be free to speak about problems that steal potential and divide people. Mistrust is the root cause of so many problems that we tend to accept as normal barriers to change - poor communications, little interest in the quality of work, resentment, favoritism, low morale, little desire to collaborate to solve problems, no commitment to change. When trust is established, these problems/barriers vaporize and culture changes quickly. You have to keep the lines of communication open. People need to feel free to have open and honest dialogue. On the flip side, you need to listen to what people are saying. Some people have no idea what culture they really have spawned or support, but they maintain an image in their minds. It's important to hear what those around you have to say. Through that, you understand the change, and it's easier to make the change when people feel they understand things.

Everything in life has and requires a balance which is an important principle: No organization has a cultural vacuum. Therefore, change must be inserted into an existing culture, which may or may not be sympathetic to the proposed change. Understanding the culture embedded within the proposed change environment is critical to its success. Ignoring it, or misunderstanding it, is a recipe for change disaster. If the change initiative conflicts with some of the cultural patterns, values and belief systems of the organization, then change will be hard to implement. Ensure that the new culture is well suited to support the execution of the organization's strategic imperatives, seems to be an important principle. Culture in an organizational context is all about relationship management, generally, this is not up to one person, where-ever he or she may be in the organization. Yet each individual who has chosen to be part of the group of people should bring his/her own responsibility, which may be cultivated in the relationship between the individual and the group, but, this would also be an interaction on equal partnership and ownership. 

Leadership, communication, strategy, role-model, systems thinking, trust, relationship management, etc. are all important points and a likely part of the formula for the successful culture transformation. 


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