Changing Workplace Culture

To attempt changing workplace culture without considering the organizational design, is to commit yourself to much activity, but achieving little real progress. Which is why you need to read both this, changing workplace article, and the organization redesign article. 

In this article we'll focus on the first two steps when successfully changing a workplace culture:

1. The Business Case

2. Educate and Energize

The Steps to Successfully Changing Workplace Culture

Make sure you use a great consultant to help you on your journey through each of the steps to changing workplace culture.

1. Establish a Solid Business Case

Before Starting the Process of Changing Workplace Culture You Must Establish A Solid Business Case

When designing (or redesigning) an organisation for a high-performance culture, there are three approaches you can take.

  1. 1
    Vision and Mission driven (Systems Design)
  2. 2
    Problem oriented (Quick fixes)
  3. 3
    Solution oriented (Copy others)

Option 1 is the only choice for long-term, consistent results.

Redesigning your organization to change the culture can be a timely and costly process (in fact it can take up to 2 years to re-design a business and many years of implementation!). The readiness of your business to begin a re-design process is determined by two factors:

  1. 1
    The urgency for change to take place
  2. 2
    The readiness of the organization to accept widespread change

To drive the momentum, dedication, time and effort it takes when changing workplace culture to high performance, there must be a strong business case. The business case will come from either the business under-performing or wishing to excel beyond its current performance.

Ensure that the numbers stack up and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt to your senior leadership that their whole-hearted support (emotional and financial) is well justified.

In fact once a strong business case is established it is much easier to entice the senior leadership to become the champions for change. Because without their full and unswerving support your success at changing workplace culture is severely threatened.

Ideally you should only begin changing workplace culture once you have acceptance and ownership of the need to change by everyone who is to be impacted by it and most critically you have strong and real commitment from your most senior leadership.

2. Educate and Energize

You have probably heard negative, cynical comments at work about, "The latest flavor of the month".

This cynicism is bred when new and seemingly unrelated change programs are put in place by a leadership team who either doesn't fully understand or communicate the reasons behind their shift in priorities and change strategies. This is why the culture change initiative needs to be launched by the most senior person in the organization and this individual must  be a strong advocate ... both in terms of time, interest and money.

Wide-spread involvement is a critical step in changing workplace culture, and unfortunately many organizations don't do it, or do it poorly. Education of every single member within the organization on the need for cultural change, the 'how' you are going to go about changing the workplace culture and the benefits to be gained by changing workplace culture must be done: over and over and over.

Once the launch is announced, the team who will do the actual design, and the people who will implement all require training.

The Design team, should include members from the Implementation team. The Implementation Team are the people who work within the organization i.e. front-line team members. If the Design team is solely made up of managers and leaders you will probably get a poor design and poor implementation.

The Implementation team must be kept abreast of the new direction the organization is moving in. Don't do it, and you doom your workplace culture change process to failure!

To energize people, the education needs to step far beyond the mere logic of, "this is why we need to change and this is how we need to change". The education needs to engage people's hearts. It needs to begin to influence people's values, mindsets, and beliefs, and ultimately enable them to change their behaviors.

People drive the performance of your business and culture of your business drives the performance of your people

Many organizations shy away from this 'warm and fuzzy' stuff. However, leaders in high performance organizations' realize that 'this stuff' is the framework upon which greatness is built.

It is key, that the leadership teams are very much included throughout the entire process, to ensure their buy-in, which is all important, because of the influence they bring to bear on the entire organization. Many organizations' spend a lot of time ensuring front-line buy-in, but overlook the people in the leadership teams ... making the often faulty assumption that these leaders are on board.

If a leader is unable to support the change, then s/he should be willing to leave of his/her own accord.

Pitfalls That May Cause Failure

Watch out for these pitfalls that could cause your change process to fail:

  1. 1
    Loss of support from senior management
  2. 2
    Leadership (particularly front-line) holding on/reverting to traditional autocratic style of leadership
  3. 3
    Leadership not leading by example or exhibiting the behaviours they require from their people
  4. 4
    Not understanding that team and people evolve over time and not giving the people the time to grow into the new way of operating
  5. 5
    Not regularly using the vision and mission to drive decisions
  6. 6
    The redesign is faulty - the elements are not in alignment
  7. 7
    Team members are changed or rotated before the culture is part of the DNA of the organization, and the new way is not 'just the way we do things around here'

Changing your culture is an on-going, never-ending process. 

It definitely isn't a project that you do, and then mark in the 'done' file, and get back to business.

As well, it may take some time to implement, and feel the full benefits of the changes, that are recommended as an outcome, of a deliberate cultural design process.

Do not be disheartened; it is simply part of the process. Changing workplace culture can be a bumpy ride. The lag time between what you are implementing, and changes in behavior can sometimes seem extremely long. Keep at it though.

Your commitment to the process and enabling the best to be brought out in yourself, your people and your organization is what will ensure that the cultural change is a success.

There's no magical answer to implementation, but avoiding the pitfalls listed above, and engaging an expert change consultant, to help you with the process, will substantially increase your chances of success.

Review the organization redesign process for details on the elements to consider in changing workplace culture.

Would you like to explore how I might be able to help you in changing your workplace culture? Contact me today!

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