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The Culture Question

Changing organisational culture can be one of the most challenging tasks for an organisation to take on. Organisational culture is formed over years of interaction between the participants and slowly but surely, behaviours are born and integrated into the day-to-day operations of the organisation.

When people in an organisation realise and recognise that their current organisational culture needs to transform to support the organisation’s success and progress, change can occur. But change cannot be implemented with ‘band aid’ solutions; it requires commitment and energy.

Steps in Organisational Culture Change

There are four major steps involved in changing an organisation’s culture.

1/ Climate Check – What is the current reality of the organisations culture? Perception is reality and ascertaining how the organsations culture is perceived by its employees is vital.

2/ Once the current organisational culture is understood, the organisation must then clarify its strategic direction and decide what the organisational culture should look like to support success. What vision does the organisation have for its future and how must the culture change to support the accomplishment of that vision?

3/ Action – It is more difficult to change the culture of an existing organisation than to create a culture in a brand new organisation. When an organisational culture is already established, people must unlearn the old values, assumptions, and behaviors before they can learn the new ones.

The two most important elements for creating organisational cultural change are executive support and training.

  • Executive support: Executives in the organisation must support the cultural change, and in ways beyond verbal support. They must show behavioral support for the cultural change. Executives must lead the change by changing their own behaviors. It is extremely important for executives to consistently support the change.
  • Training: Culture change depends on behavior change. Members of the organisation must clearly understand what is expected of them, and must know how to actually do the new behaviors, once they have been defined. Training can be very useful in both communicating expectations and teaching new behaviors.

Effective communication is absolutely key to any change process. Keeping all employees informed and involved in the organisational culture change process ensures commitment and success.

4/ Review – Critical to evaluating the level of success of organisational change is to re-visit your original desired outcomes and ascertain whether they have been met. This ‘temperature check’ should be conducted at the 6 and 12 month mark.

Additional Considerations for Culture Change

Other components important in changing the culture of an organisation are:

  • Create value and belief statements: use employee focus groups, by department, to put the mission, vision, and values into words that state their impact on each employee’s job. Review organisational structure: changing the physical structure of the company to align it with the desired organisational culture may be necessary.
  • Redesign your approach to rewards and recognition: you will likely need to change the reward system to encourage the behaviors vital to the desired organisational culture.
  • Review all work systems such as employee promotions, pay practices, performance management, and employee selection to make sure they are aligned with the desired culture.