Changing Organizational Culture requires working those changes across the organisation and from from top to bottom. Focusing on goals and results is only a small piece of the bigger picture. All parts has to be considered, company experience, employee beliefs and entrenched practices – and then ensure what you actually change is sustained.
Use the Results Pyramid to achieve your goals. Define your firm’s experiences, beliefs and actions.
Managers are directly linked to creating experiences which molds a company’s culture every day. Employees observe and take on board how things are done around here, and an organisational culture is born. This doesn’t mean that the new culture is in good shape. There are cases where culture did more damage than good.
Leaders should focus on creating a culture that is healthy for the entire organization, across the board, lowest level to executive. How is such an immense task accomplished?
The first step is defining your goals and put together a strategic backlog for reaching them. For example, “Make decisions. Take risks. Move fast. Be accountable” was the strategy put in place for General Motors in 2009 to change its culture and stop the company from losing further money.
Why did GM decide on this route? To shape your company’s culture you need to understand the results pyramid. Three key constituents make up the results pyramid: Experiences, beliefs, actions. When stacked on top of each other, they all compound the end result, or achievements of your organisation. A culture of accountability will see your company perform at the most optimal level.
Are you thinking what kind of culture you should be implementing in your company? The key lies in General Motors’ reformed strategy: “Be accountable”.
Accountability is significant to a strong organisational culture and is shaped by every action an employee performs. In organisational expressions, it is a very thin line that separate the poor from the great organizations. In general terms there are only two ways of acting and that is above and below the line. Only one of these ways fosters and cultivates accountability. By acting above the line we can promote accountability in four easy steps: First we have to see it by considering other people’s point of views, communicating honestly and candidly, exchanging feedback and hearing the difficult truths that exposes the real circumstances at hand.
Second, we need to own it by accepting the organization’s mission as our own. Only then are we able to solve it, by asking what else we could do to get the results we are after.
Finally, we’ve got to do it, and perform the tasks we said we would (demonstrating accountability), focus on our priorities and be reliable and trustworthy. When everyone in the organisation decides of their own free will to take above the line steps, you’ll have a culture of accountability.
While your organisation should undertake to obtain above the line actions, below the line actions will only harm the organisational culture. Acting below the line is accompanied by a refusal to accept responsibility and instead become obsessed with blame games, cycles of finger pointing and employees assuming the victim mentality.
Some acting below the line is part of being human, as long as we continuously be cognizant of it and steer toward acting above the line.
When asking “who’s accountable for this?” It should feel the same as “who’s starring the main role in this film?”. More often than not it is perceived as we’re looking for someone to blame. When your company treats the accountable as the star of the show, you know you’re on the right path to great culture.
To shift your culture, you have to shift the experiences, beliefs and actions of those in it.
In a world where everything is a race to win, you can’t take your time in leading cultural change. And that doesn’t mean you should take deadly shortcuts either. Too often leaders try to change the way people act to obtain the results they want without working to change the way people think or what they belief. This causes a state of appearing to be involved, but not being committed to the cause of the company.
This is a case of only the top of the results pyramid being addressed, actions and results, while the two fundamental elements on the pyramid remain underutilized: experiences and beliefs. We all know what happens with shaky foundations.
Delving into why that doesn’t work, we need to remember that the current culture is produced by your current results. To get to the desired cultural state, you’ll need your new culture to produce the new results. It’s impossible to get results with your current culture. To create the new culture you have to create new experiences and new beliefs as only these can shape new actions to generate improved results as your new culture emerges.
Altering experiences and beliefs takes time and effort, but their yield is noteworthy, enduring changes that will create a firm foundation for the results you want.
This process occurs on different scales and different speeds for different companies. Think of this journey as a transition and not a transformation.
Make sure everyone in your organisation is on the same page before you try to push for change.
Alignment is the secret weapon to get everyone rallied around the change for the desired results. Alignment is the guiding beliefs and deliberate actions that an organisation applies to a clear and common goal.
When people are in a state of alignment, there is less stress, decision making is faster and more efficient, and other processes in the organisation also speeds up. Thus, alignment is crucial for effective cultural change. Why is this? Because no one is aligned. They don’t know in which direction to steer the ship.
Remember that alignment is a process and not an event. You constantly work at it to see results.
Leading culture change requires responsibility, responsiveness and facilitation.
To lead change the leader’s require certain skill-sets. First you’ll need the skill to change, you can’t assign the responsibility to another department. As a leader you’ll need to know what’s going on at every level. Leading a change on such a scale will definitely yield criticism. In order to deal with this you will need the skill to respond back.
There are five steps you need to take to respond to feedback.
- Identify the beliefs you want others to share
- Communicate this belief
- Portray the experience you are going to deliver to your employees
- Ask for feedback on the planned experience
- Enroll employees in providing feedback as the plan progresses
You’ll need the skill to be facilitative, as change at this scale requires meaningful dialogue, teamwork and collaboration. Sustain your culture change by continuously integrating it into all meetings, systems and practices.
Making all these plans for change means nothing if you can’t sustain it.
Introducing Communities of Practice
A great way to keep the momentum in the change initiative is by creating Communities of Practice (CoP) where groups of people share knowledge, learn from one another and belong to a community of like-minded individuals. Communities of Practice are crucial in organizational transformation.
Healthy CoPs have a culture built on professional networking, personal relationships, shared knowledge, and common skills. Combined with voluntary participation, CoPs provide knowledge workers with opportunities to experience autonomy, mastery, and purpose beyond their daily tasks.
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