Embarking on a Culture Change Initiative? 3 Keys to Success
Culture can be defined as the set of beliefs and behaviours of an organisation’s workforce. It is created from the messages that are received about how people are expected to behave. Cultures bind people together through shared goals, beliefs, approaches, routines, needs and values. Peer pressure helps behavioural norms develop over time, and these are influenced by the type of work performed, organisational history, successes and failures, physical conditions, the workplace environment and the demands of external entities such as customers, stakeholders, economic conditions etc. But the strongest influence on cultural norms are the senior leaders and managers within an organisation. It is the messages and the behaviours of this group that is most influential in shaping the culture of an organisation.
Senior Management’s Responsibility
Research shows that the leadership of the CEO and the Senior Management Team is the single most important factor in culture change programs. If they are not on board, if they do not understand the need for and the business benefits of cultural change, if they do not understand how cultural change occurs, then any change will be short lived.
Crafting a Culture Takes Time and Commitment
The rollout of a Culture Change Initiative takes time, focus and commitment from the corporate leaders. Senior leaders must take an active role in communicating the need for change in the organisation and for leading the way with new habits, processes, behaviours and approaches. The importance of senior managers role modelling new behaviours cannot be understated. What you see in an organisation is role modelled, promulgated, tolerated or instigated by the senior people in an organisation. In other words, organisations are “shadows of their leaders”, and a company’s behaviour is congruent with that of its leaders.
Well crafted Value Statements are powerful tools for aligning behaviour and communicating expectations, but only if they are clear (not Motherhood Statements),effectively implemented within an organisation and Senior Managers role model the new values. Revisiting and renewing the organisations Mission and Vision Statements are also great ways to communicate the need for a new culture, but can suffer from the same shortcomings as values.
Reactive, small-picture, incongruent and unaligned change initiatives / directives have little value. Culture change is a strategic activity and will benefit from excellent planning, roll-out, measurement of the change, strong communications and sufficient time, as well as strong engagement and belief in the process from those in senior positions.