by Colin D Ellis, author of “Culture Fix: How to Create a Great Place to Work“
Organizational leaders talk about culture transformation as a critical strategy for giving them a competitive edge. Yet, they look for every possible way to avoid addressing culture change because it involves risk, time and money.
Research shows that a massive 92 percent of senior executives cite culture as a critical driver to their companies, yet only 16 percent said their culture is “where it should be.”
People are among an organization’s greatest assets, and effective leaders create an environment where staff members feel they belong and can do their best work. Putting the time, money and effort into developing a culture that allows staff to work with the organization, not for it, will generate returns in the form of greater productivity, successful collaboration, less turn over and buy-in to a shared vision.
Cultural transformation is a complex undertaking and isn’t something that can be bought off the shelf or hired out to a consultant to lead. It’s a process of collectively defining value that embrace all team members as equals and invite immediate and creative feedback when processes or protocols hold any employees back. If people within the organization don’t believe in the culture change, aren’t involved in it or simply don’t understand it, it will fail.
Take these actions to set the stage for your organization’s successful culture transformation:
1. Make a strong case for change.
It’s not enough to simply say, “We need to change our culture.” There needs to be a sound rationale that people buy into. Answer the “why this and why now?” questions and provide a foundation on which the activity of creating the change can be built.
2. Ensure accountability.
Appoint a senior executive to throw his or her effort behind the activity and ensure it delivers what was promised in the case for change. This person will need to encourage all other executives do their part to ensure that the change happens.
3. Build a strong team.
From the outset, build a team to work collaboratively to deliver value (as outlined in the case for change) as quickly as possible to satisfy the needs of the organization. The team should be diverse and inclusive, and may at times require external expertise to facilitate a process, followed by bursts of inspiration, motivation and new thinking.
4. Share a vision of the future.
To motivate and inspire a team and ensure that those using the outputs from the initiative understand what’s required of them, define a vision, a set of values and a description of the future so that people understand what they’ve been asked to be a part of.
5. Communicate clearly and regularly.
Unambiguously broadcast the activities required to complete the initiative, as well as the personal changes required to achieve success. This doesn’t mean sending an email or pinning a poster to a noticeboard. It entails regular messages, reminders and demonstrations of culture change from those accountable for the transformation.
Senior managers must model what they expect of others, hold everyone to the required behaviors and ensure they follow the new path forward. The goal is to inspire and motivate staff across the organization to act as catalysts for adhering to cultural standards and ensuring that the culture never stagnates.
Colin D Ellis is an award-winning international speaker, bestselling author and renowned culture change and project management expert who works with organizations around the world to help them transform how they get things done. Based in Australia, Colin is the author of four books, including his most recent, “Culture Fix: How to Create a Great Place to Work“.