Recognize This! – Ground-up efforts for culture change, led with intention, are most effective for long-term success.
The importance of company culture continues
to get more and more coverage in the press, in research studies, and an
organizational implementation and resources. This pleases me immensely,
and yet I’m still concerned when I see articles like this one that focus on adding an executive-level position of culture chief.
Done right, this can be a powerful role to marshal resources, but it
also runs the risk of communicating a top-down approach to culture.
What works better? Bottom-up culture change aligned with organization strategy and goals as discussed in Harvard Business Review in the article “Culture Change that Sticks” by Jon R. Katzenback, Ilona Steffen, and Caroline Kronley.
Using Aetna as a case study, the authors make clear these important
aspects to long-lasting culture change and management over time:
- Culture change must be ground-up, not top-down.
- Enlist ambassadors for desired change from among respected, engaged
employees at all levels and all areas of the organization to help get
- Communicate clearly why you’re making the change the new purpose of the changed culture (For more on why this is important, see this CIPD research showing a strong correlation between employee engagement and knowledge of the organization’s core purpose)
- Reinforce the behaviors (new and old) you need to see in the new culture
Those were my high-level take-aways, which are well in line with the
five principles of effective culture change the authors outline
themselves (key points and excerpts below are quoted):
- Match strategy and culture: A strategy that is at odds with a company’s culture is doomed. Culture trumps strategy every time.
- Focus on a few critical shifts in behaviors: When a few key behaviors are emphasized heavily, employees will often develop additional ways to reinforce them.
- Honor the strengths of your existing culture:
Acknowledging the existing culture’s assets will also make major change
feel less like a top-down imposition and more like a shared evolution.
- Integrate formal and informal interventions: As you
promote critical new behaviors, making people aware of how they affect
the company’s strategic performance, be sure to integrate formal
approaches – like new rules, metrics, and incentives – with formal
- Measure and monitor cultural evolution: Rigorous
measurement allows executives to identify backsliding, correct course
where needed, and demonstrate tangible evidence of improvement – which
can help to maintain positive momentum over the long haul.
What are your experiences with culture change? What would you add as critical for success?
2 Aug 2012 9:10 PM
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