You Can Consciously Change Your Corporate Culture

Your culture should—and can—reflect your company's needs

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Your corporate culture has a significant impact on whether or not your company accomplishes its most significant goals. You may need to tweak the culture, or you may need a complete culture overhaul. Although changing your organizational culture can feel like rolling rocks uphill, it will likely result in increased growth and revenue.

Organizational cultures form over years of interaction among participants in the organization. It usually takes a significant event for people to consider culture change, such as flirting with bankruptcy, a significant loss of sales and customers, a new CEO with a different outlook and agenda, or losing $1 million.

Steps in Organizational Culture Change

Three major steps are involved in changing an organization's culture.

  1. Understand your current culture.
  2. Decide where your organization wants to go, define its strategic direction, and decide what the organizational culture should look like. What vision does the organization have for its future, and how must the culture change to accomplish that vision?
  3. 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

Develop a picture of your organization's desired future. What does the organization want to create? How will this benefit your employees and the organization's other stakeholders?

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:

    Perhaps your team decides that you spend too much time agreeing with each other rather than challenging potentially incorrect forecasts and assumptions of fellow team members. Or perhaps key management leaders spend most of their time with team members individually and promote individual agendas to the detriment of the cohesive functioning of the whole group. Consciously identify the cultural implements and decide to change them.

    Change the Organizational Culture

    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. The two most important elements for creating organizational cultural change are executive support and training.

    Executive Support

    Provide Training

    • Culture change depends on behavior and belief change. Members of the organization must clearly understand what is expected of them and how to actually do the new behaviors. Use training to communicate expectations and new behaviors. Mentoring will also help employees learn and change.

    Additional Ways to Change the Organizational Culture

    Communication, employee involvement, and a willingness to learn and adapt are keys to keeping organizational change on track.

    Create value and belief statements

    • Ask employee focus groups to put the company's mission, vision, and values into words that state the 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

    • You may need to change the physical structure of the company to align with the desired organizational culture. For example, a small company with four distinct business units competing for a product, customers, and internal support resources may not support an effective organizational culture and the overall success of the business.

    Consider moving employees and teams

    • You want to create the sense of cohesion and camaraderie among groups that must work together to serve customers. So, to accomplish this closeness, you will want to move people who must work closely together into the same space.

    Redesign your approach to rewards and recognition

    •  You will likely need to change the reward system to encourage behaviors vital to the desired organizational culture. For example, if you want to encourage employees to work as cohesive teams, you must reward them for their success as team players.

    Review all work systems

    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.

    But with time, commitment, planning, and proper execution, you can change your organizational culture to support the accomplishment of key your business goals and needed outcomes. Yes, you can.