Leadership is influence. Though that influence is constant, there comes a moment where every organization must disrupt itself to change the times or change with the times. When this moment comes, an organization’s culture is either a catalyst or a hidrance to change; most of the time it’s a hidrance.
How then can organizations approach culture change strategically?
It starts with leadership. But the type of leadership that drives transformation; not the type that values the status quo. Culture change means changing beliefs and habits; this is what makes it hard. And no, copying another culture won’t work. You have to do the hard work of challenging your long held beliefs and then taking action, consistently, on a day to day basis.
To help you approach culture change strategically, here are 10 principles for driving culture change:
Align strategy with culture
Culture eats strategy for breakfast? No. Unless you get the strategy right, even the best culture won’t make much of a difference. A strategy’s effectiveness depends on cultural alignment, and leaders must clearly connect their desired culture with their strategy and business objectives.
This is where most culture change efforts fail before they even start. Leaders must make sure the target culture is clearly articulated and communicated throughout the organization. Employees should understand “why”, not just “what” so they can better connect with the change imperative.
This is said over and over again: culture change requires senior leadership support. If there isn’t consistent support from senior leadership, managers will default to doing things the way they’ve always done them.
Focus on the customer
One reason startups change the game is because they have a relentless focus on the customer; they become them. While large organizations see customers as numbers on a spreadsheet; they don’t really know them. To drive culture change leaders must regain that customer focus and put the customer’s point of view at the center of their conversations.
Value teamwork and openness
Today’s problems need to be solved collaboratively; thus you need people who can collaborate, listen and build strong networks. You also need teams that can debate and challenge ideas openly without fear, not just theirs but also their superiors.
Culture change struggles in a risk averse environment that punishes failure. To accelerate change, you have to encourage people to experiment and fail quickly, cheaply and share their learning.
Give people autonomy
This is a big one. Senior leaders should set broad direction for employees, but provide autonomy to enable employees to drive culture within their specific context.
Walk the talk
Leaders should model the way. Specifically, they should show curiosity, accept new ideas and avoid being dismissive of change.
Celebrate quick wins
Quick wins supercharge momentum for broader change. Celebrate them.
Measure and monitor
To encourage accountability at all levels find ways to measure and monitor change to help employees understand how their contributions are being evaluated, developed or deployed.
To summarize, the 10 principles for driving culture change are:
- Align strategy with culture
- Communicate effectively
- Secure buy-in
- Focus on the customer
- Value teamwork and openness
- Encourage experimentation
- Give people autonomy
- Walk the talk
- Celebrate quick wins
- Measure and monitor
What do you think? What would you add or takeaway?
Also published on Medium.