Guest Post by Culture Consultancy
All businesses offer such a wide array of challenges it will often seem impossible to take them all on simultaneously. While dealing with a range of issues – rightsizing, talent retention, changing market conditions- implementing needed organisational change in your company can seem like an unwinnable battle.
The most challenging aspect of company development however, the real walk against the wind, is innovating a cultural change within the business. Often cultural change is forced on an organisation, be it a brush with bankruptcy or a significant loss of sales.
1. Understand Your Existing Culture
The first steps in company change are the hardest. Firstly the current culture must be examined closely and understood. More often than not you will find the company has become set in its ways, comfortable with the current ideas and processes it has established. Cultures are set by those that manage the business; you must be prepared to change your thinking – and demonstrate to your team that you have changed your thinking – to lead others to change theirs. In Ghandi’s famous dictum: be the change you want to see.
2. Set a New Vision
Once you have understood the current culture, you can then begin to focus on the vision you want the business to achieve. If for example your company has become difficult to control due to growth, the obvious change is to add more structure and systems. But beware of this ‘obvious’ truth. Steve Jobs, the Founder of Apple, famously resisted increases in bureaucracy. This resistance, among other things, would lead to his ousting from Apple in favor of John Sculley who had the skills necessary to lead a larger, more diversified company. Despite this huge culture change, Sculley innovated change from a vision of success helping Apple to become one of the most creative product development firms of our time. (Interestingly, Apple needed to bring Jobs back as CEO to reignite the creative spark lost during the enormous upheaval in culture driven through by Scully – be careful what you wish for!).
3. Build Executive Support
Once you have set the vision, the work to innovate change has only just begun. There are many important aspects to consider, too many to list in this brief article. Nevertheless, most executives with experience of successful change will tell you the most important change work is building executive support and staff training. It is critical that executives’ behavior entirely reflects the desired cultural change of the business. They need to support with actions not just with words. C-suite Execs that choose to resist new ideas must find themselves replaced with willing accomplices for change. Workplace Culture change is hard enough without those in charge rejecting the very ideas that are intended to drive the firm onwards.
This then allows staff training to come naturally – if executives have accepted the change, then so can I! Everyone in the company can now ask themselves what is needed from me in this new world, and how will I go about achieving it?
In the early stages, communication is key. To paraphrase change guru John Kotter: keep saying it until you are sick of saying it. Then you have just begun to get through to people. Finally, be sure to review all work systems as the culture change takes place. It is easy to overlook the obvious in times of stress, and cultural change will be stressful!
I have tried not to trivialize the innovation of cultural change. It is one of the most challenging things to do in business and it frequently takes many years to achieve the vision. As the proverb says: the first step is the hardest. Taking that step may change your business for ever.
At Culture Consultancy we get to the heart of your business, We help generate more out of the same resource and sharpen the organisational vision towards a single objective. Specializing in Leadership Development, Employee engagement, Culture Change, Culture Alignment, and Innovation Culture.