Talk to almost any HR practitioner today, and you will hear that the backdrop to most of his or her work is that amorphous thing in the trade that we like to call 'change'. You love and hate it in almost equal measure, whatever it means.
Why? Because it gives you purpose as a practitioner - and it derails you when you least expect it. And it helps to frame - and undo - the contribution you make to the organisations you serve. Either way, it brings you to the management's top table, to your benefit or at your peril.
So here is an admission from heady world of change consulting.
We love your dilemma. Because it gives us consultants a purpose too. And we spend a lot of time wondering why it is that you ask us to do a lot of what you can simply get on with yourself.
Not that we are trying to talk ourselves out of existence you will understand. Simply, getting a grip on change will most likely mean that you use change consultants for the stickier issues where we add most value.
What is cultural change?
But what do we really mean when we talk about cultural change?
It happens when the structure of your organisation has shifted. We can identify real social change. There are lasting changes afoot to what people think and believe and what values these people share or aspire to. Internal processes in the organisation are being shaken up, and the relationships between key players throughout the organisation are in flux.
Consultants and HR practitioners can get their knickers in something of a twist when identifying why this happens. Truth be told, there is a bunch of factors that cause change - some obvious and some not so clear; some arise midway through change, and a lot of the time we deal with a confluence of issues that can be tricky to unpick.
Don't be daunted though. Too often, you can be deluded into believing that the pace of change itself is reason enough not to stop and ask why. (It is a great opening for consultants, but really, something you can handle as competently with your management colleagues.)
Here is a list of factors we consistently bump into. It is not exhaustive, but it might prompt you into finding a few more that are specific to your organisation.