How to Change and Transform Your Company Culture
You Can Transform Your Culture Using These Conscious Steps
Changing your organizational culture is the toughest task you will ever take on. Your organizational culture was formed over years of interaction among the participants in the organization. Changing the accepted organizational culture can feel like rolling rocks uphill.
Organizational cultures form for a reason. Perhaps the current culture matches the style and comfort zone of the company founder and the senior team. Culture frequently echoes the prevailing management style. Since managers tend to hire people just like themselves, the established organizational culture is reinforced by new hires as well as the actions and behavior of longer-term staff members.
Transforming the Current Culture
Organizational culture grows over time. People are comfortable with the current culture. For people to consider culture change, usually a significant event must occur. An event that rocks their world such as flirting with bankruptcy, a significant loss of sales and customers, a new CEO with a different outlook and agenda or losing a million dollars, might get peoples' attention.
You discover in the process, that even if your current culture is not dysfunctional or bad, it may not effectively support the accomplishment of your most significant goals. You may need to tweak the culture to better support the current values and goals or you may need a complete culture overhaul.
Even then, to recognize that the organizational culture is the culprit and to take the necessary steps to change it is a tough journey. In no way is the intention to trivialize the difficulty of the experience of organizational culture change as summarized in this article. It takes prioritization and consistent, constant attention.
Best Recommendations for Organizational Culture Change
These are the best ideas about creating the cultural change that can help your organization grow and transform.
When people in an organization realize and recognize that their current culture needs to transform to support the organization's success and progress, change can occur. But change is not pretty and change is not easy. By its very nature, changing your workplace culture is messy and challenging
The good news? Organizational culture change is possible. It requires understanding, commitment, time, and tools.
Steps in Organizational Culture Change
There are three major steps involved in changing an organization's culture.
- An earlier article discusses how to understand your current culture. Before an organization can change its culture, it must first understand the current culture or the way that things in the organization are now. Do take the time to pursue the activities recommended here before moving on to the next steps.
- Once you understand your current organizational culture, your organization must then decide where it wants to go, define its strategic direction, and decide what the organizational culture should look like to support this success. What vision does the organization have for its future and how must the culture change to support the accomplishment of that vision?
- Finally, the individuals in the organization must decide to change their behavior to create the desired organizational culture. This is the hardest step in culture change.
Plan the Desired Organizational Culture
The organization must plan where it wants to go before trying to make any changes in the organizational culture. With a clear picture of where the organization is currently, the organization can plan where it wants to be next.
Mission, vision, and values: to provide a framework for the assessment and evaluation of the current organizational culture, your organization needs to develop a picture of its desired future. What does the organization want to create for the future? How will this benefit your employees and the organization's other stakeholders?
You need to examine your mission, vision, and values for both the strategic and the value-based components of the organization. Your management team needs to answer questions such as:
- What are the five most important values you would like to see represented in your organizational culture?
- Are these values compatible with your current organizational culture? Do they exist now? If not, why not? If they are so important, why are you not attaining these values?
- Are your mission and vision clearly articulated and disseminated so that employees can attain a clear understanding of the organization's direction and where they fit within it?
Next, you ask:
What needs to happen to create the culture desired by the organization? You cannot change the organizational culture without knowing where your organization wants to be or what elements of the current organizational culture need to change. What cultural elements support the success of your organization, or not?
For example, your team decides that you spend too much time agreeing with each other rather than challenging the forecasts and assumptions of fellow team members, that typically have been incorrect.
In a second example, your key management team members, who must lead the company, spend most of their time team building with various members of the team on an individual basis, and to promote individual agendas, to the detriment of the cohesive functioning of the whole group.
In a third example, your company employees appear to make a decision, but, in truth, are waiting for the blessing of the company owner or founder to actually move forward with the plan.
In a fourth example, your managers fail to expect all employees to accept responsibility and accountability from the employees who are assigned or who volunteered ownership of a task or project.
Miss deadlines? No consequences. Miss identifying a specific customer market before developing a new product? No consequences and everyone had fun working on the shiny new.
In each of these situations, certain components of the organizational culture will keep your organization from moving forward with the success you deserve. You need to consciously identify the cultural implements and decide to change them.
However, knowing what the desired organizational culture looks like is not enough. Organizations must create plans to ensure that the desired organizational culture becomes a reality.
Change the Organizational Culture
It is more difficult to change the culture of an existing organization than to create a culture in a brand new organization or team. When an organizational culture is already established, people must unlearn the old values, assumptions, and behaviors before they can learn the new ones.
The two most important elements for creating organizational cultural change are executive support and training.
- Executive support: Executives in the organization must support the cultural change, and in ways beyond verbal support. They must show behavioral support for the cultural change. Executives must lead the change by changing their own behaviors. It is extremely important for executives to consistently support the change.
- Training, Communication, and Mentoring: Culture change depends on behavior change. Members of the organization must clearly understand what is expected of them and must know how to actually do the new behaviors, once they have been defined. Training can be very useful in both communicating expectations and in teaching new behaviors. Mentoring and effective communication will also help employees learn and change.
Additional Ways to Change the Organizational Culture
Other components important in changing the culture of an organization are:
- Create value and belief statements: use employee focus groups by department, to put the mission, vision, and values into words that state their impact on each employee's job. For one job, the employee stated: "I live the value of quality patient care by listening attentively whenever a patient speaks." This exercise gives all employees a common understanding of the desired culture that actually reflects the actions they must commit to on their jobs.
- Practice effective communication: keeping all employees informed about the organizational culture change process ensures commitment and success. Telling employees what is expected of them is critical for effective organizational culture change.
- Review organizational structure: changing the physical structure of the company to align it with the desired organizational culture may be necessary. As an example, in a small company, four distinct business units competing for a product, customers, and internal support resources, may not support the creation of an effective organizational culture. These units are unlikely to align to support the overall success of the business.
- Consider moving employees and teams: you want to create the sense of cohesion and camaraderie needed among groups that must work together to serve customers.
- Redesign your approach to rewards and recognition: you will likely need to change the reward system to encourage the behaviors vital to the desired organizational culture.
- Review all work systems such as employee promotions, pay practices, performance management, and employee selection to make sure they are aligned with the desired culture.
For example, you cannot just reward individual performance if the requirements of your new organizational culture specify teamwork. A senior leader's total bonus cannot reward the accomplishment of his department's goals without recognizing the importance of him playing well with others on the leadership team to accomplish your organizational goals.
You can change your organizational culture to support the accomplishment of your business goals. Changing the organizational culture requires time, commitment, planning and proper execution—but you can do it. Yes, you can.
Take a look at the first steps you need to take to change your corporate culture.