Watching culture change happen within a business is something that makes a lasting impression. There are many organizations that don’t understand why culture is so important and many more that want to change it but don’t know how. I’ve even read articles like this one, that suggest it may not even be possible.
Culture change, to most business leaders, seems too big, too unwieldy and too slow to be worth the trouble. That’s why many resort to more familiar tactics like, re-organization, re-engineering, a new performance management process or a training program, anything to avoid tackling culture change. At least if those things don’t work,(and the research says they probably wont) they failed in a conventional way, rather than trying something rash like changing the culture.
When you get to watch it happen, and even be part of it, you understand that if you want to take an organization to the next level of growth and create sustainable success, changing the culture isn’t optional.
I’ve been working with a business that has started that cultural transformation and the improvements are already obvious and welcome to the people working there. I’ve had the opportunity to engage with three levels of leadership in the company and at each level they are seeing tangible results in the way business is conducted and the way clients are served.
During an initial discussion with a group of mid level managers, I asked if they had noticed a culture change. They unanimously agreed that it had not only been noticeable, but significant. They went on to say how much they enjoyed working there now and how, rather than dreading the job, they were much more engaged and excited about the changes. I even asked them whether they would rather see this kind of culture change in the organization or receive a nice raise. While they hesitated for a second, culture change was the clear winner.
What’s interesting to note is that there has been no change in personnel at the senior level. Actually, that’s not true. There has been a significant change in the senior leaders, it just didn’t involve any of them leaving. They have decided on the kind of culture they want to create and they are steadily working toward it. They are looking inward to determine what kind of leaders they need to be in order to build that environment and they are supporting each other in making those changes.
It’s early, but I’m betting on them to win big. Traction is already evident at every level of the business and while there’s plenty of room for improvement, everyone in the organization sees the momentum now and agrees that the trend is the right one.
Culture change is hard, but it’s not complex. There are some basic principles to follow and, if executed consistently, they will create a shift in any organization’s behavior. Culture decides how your business will act tomorrow but leaders can decide to change culture, starting today.
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