Leading Organizational Change
This comprehensive document on leading organizational change is researched and written by Arthur Carmazzi, Globally ranked as the #4 Organizational Culture thought leader and #10 in Leadership for 2020. As an active Consultant, Coach, Keynote Speaker, and developer of the “Culture Evolution” organizational culture change consulting initiative, he is constantly involved in real-world problems as organizational development solutions and working with the C Team to ensure sustainable business excellence.
The leader’s role in organizational change is not to define the change but rather to enlist and support team members to create and own an organizational culture that helps them to be personally successful in the process of achieving organizational goals. This document focuses on the corporate culture elements needed in leading organizational culture change and how that affects engagement and organizational effectiveness.
Each organizational change process has two elements:
- Local Factors – the specific strategies that related to the type and structure of the organization
- Global Factors – the foundational psychology and strategy that is fundamental across all organizational change initiatives
Each part of the corporate culture change process has various chapters to identify the strategies of achieving “sustainable” organizational change. The keyword for this culture change guide is sustainability. Too many initiatives are not only never fully implemented, but if they are, only a limited percentage is sustainable.
4 Types of Organizational Change
- Technological – applications of technology to enhance operations or improve efficiency.
- Structural – change in organizational structure lateral expansion, consolidation of resources, downsizing, product group consolidation…
- Philosophical – the entire mission and direction of an organization changes to reinvent itself to be current and sustainable
- Psychological – changing organizational culture, leadership styles, management processes, HR policies… for the purpose of improving efficiency, innovation, and engagement.
Psychological – Leading Organizational Change is the Focus
In this document, we will be focusing on No. 4, leading organizational change, and the most current ideas and processes that have achieved 100% sustainable results.
But before any initiative can start, you must have a benchmark of where your culture currently is and an idea of what you want it to be. To achieve this, we will use the “Carmazzi Culture Evolution” model which identifies the 5 levels of organizational culture.
When change is connected to the organization’s culture, it will have a direct impact on the team and their engagement. And if that culture impact is communicated to show the potential benefits in the personal success of team members through the workplace, it supports a greater promise the team can hope to achieve.
First, lets identify the Company Culture Levels
The 5 levels of organizational culture evolution are as follows:
- Little trust
- Act in self interest
- Do not take many risks
- Do not usually speak their mind
- Do not come up with many new ideas
- Paycheck driven
- Stagnating growth
- Avoid responsibility
- High level of fear
- Avoid conflict
- Self preservation
Considerations in Evolving a Blame Culture:
- Look at the leader. Are employees reprimanded every time they make a mistake?
- Consider re-assessing the reactions to mistakes as “learning events”
- Even if there is a cost associated to the mistake, that would be a training investment and would usually be far less expensive than an ineffective and stagnant Blame Culture
- Senior leaders should focus on creating a safe work environment
- If organizational culture change is to occur, a guided transition must include working with two high visibility low-level employees to take risk (or “Appear” to take risk) with new ideas and be rewarded for it.
- Reward one on success and the other on failure
- Emphasize the reward is for trying something new. (you may need to assist them in coming up with that something new, but make sure they get credit for it)
- Implement the successful idea IMMEDIATELY
- Assist the failed idea to turn it into a useful one (publicly and respectfully) and then implement that immediately
- Observe changes and continue with the strategy of encouraging risk and free thought.
- Little communication
- People involved within their own departments only
- Loyalty is to specific groups and not to the organization
- Lots of gossip
- Critical of other departments
- Little cross-departmental cooperation
- Don’t get involved in other people’s business
- Responsibility stops at your own job description
Considerations in Evolving a Multi-Directional Culture:
- Does the organization have a common goal that everyone can “Relate to”?
- Consider finding out what people like about the organization, use that to formulate a reason for the organization’s existence (besides making money)
- Use this consistently in all internal communications to reinforce a common vision.
- Include contests and rewards for individuals who best demonstrate that vision
- Does your organization have an effective internal communication system of process?
- Does senior management still communicate with the staff? Senior leaders should make regular appearances and address the issues to the entire organization.
- Do you have a feedback system and a reward system for using it? Get one.
- Are departments segregated?
- Do you have Standard Operating Procedures for cross-departmental cooperation? Get your staff to vent their frustrations and use that to make SOP’s that solve these frustrations.
- Implement these immediately and get the frustrated staff to carry it through.
- Train your staff in communication awareness
- Apply Directive Communication psychology principals to cultivate an awareness of group dynamics and the psychology of cooperation and communication
- Use Communication multiplying tools such as the CBC Cards
- View the results and maintain the strategies
Live and Let Live Culture
- Mental Stagnation
- Low Creativity
- Average cooperation
- Average communication
- Little future vision
- Work in the moment for future goals
- Monotonous routine
- Lacks passion
- Keep the status quo
- Don’t complicate matters
- If it’s not broken, don’t fix it
Considerations in Evolving a Live and let live Culture:
- Do your people feel like they are important to the organisation?
- Cultivate a base of trust by allowing people some freedom to make decisions
- Attach KPI’s to that freedom and measure at least every month
- Give people a sense of progress and recognition for their actions
- Senior leaders should create opportunities for teams to reinvent the current corporate culture
- Do your people use and believe in your products or service?
- Are they proud of what your organization does? Involve them in its development.
- Do they feel like they contribute to your product’s or service’s growth?
- Find 3 or 4 key individuals and assist them to add value to your organization with how to improve products or service
- Publicly praise and reward them
- Organizational leaders get publicity for your organization to make it more publicly visible.
- Involve your employees (or teams) in the PR process and get them quoted by the press (after coaching of course)
- Make policies that will put your contributing employees Before Your Customers
- Make those policies public
Brand Congruent Culture
- The company is likely a high-performance organization
- People believe in the product or service of the organization
- People feel good about what their company is trying to achieve
- Cooperation is good
- A strong culture exists around the brand and core values
- People have a similar goal in the organization
- Use personal resources to actively solve problems
- Not limited to job description, will actively look for solutions
- Most everyone is in sales, marketing, and PR; they are walking ambassadors
- No conflict between organisations promise to customers and employees
- Many are passionate about the product/service
- Believe what you say
- Live what you believe
- Product/service improvement is everyone’s responsibility
Considerations in Evolving a Brand Congruent Culture:
- Have people become aware of their personal goals and values?
- Cultivate a continuous improvement campaign for the individuals
- Infuse the idea that leadership is not a position but an identity that lets you excel in your endeavors.
- Apply Directive Communication based Leadership training to align your people with an organizational culture centered leadership identity
- Have the leadership team let go of ego and contribute by letting those who are in lesser positions of power, but are qualified to make decisions in their place?
- Empowerment only works if people use it. The leadership team should develop staff as leaders in their own areas.
- Excess bureaucracy and control kills empowerment and leadership development.
- Is the cooperation within the organization for the job or a sincere action to contribute to others’ success?
- Alignment of personal and organizational/group goals and values is essential for evolving to the next step
- Ensure internal communications support a greater sense of empowerment
- Apply Directive Communication psychology alignment strategies such as the 6 step Creative Synergy Program
Leadership Enriched Culture
- The ultimate high-performance organization
- People view the organization as an extension of themselves
- People feel good about what they personally achieve through the organization
- Cooperation is exceptional
- Strategic planning is everyone’s job and related to nurturing a performance organization
- Individual goals are aligned with the goals of the organization
- People use group resources to actively solve problems
- Not limited to job description, will do what it takes to make things happen
- Most everyone is in sales, marketing and PR; they are walking ambassadors
- People are consistently bringing out the best in each other
- Leaders do not develop followers, but develop other leaders
- Leadership is contribution driven and not ego driven
- Very Low employee turnover
- Most are passionate about the organisation and what it represents
This is the highest level of Organizational Culture Evolution and is the ultimate goal for leading organizational culture change
- Everyone has something to offer to you and the organisation
- By assisting others to be their best, you will become better
- Leadership is an identity one must adopt, it is not a skill
Where are you in the Organization Culture Evolution?
Once we know at what level our culture is at, leading organizational change needs to define three factors before continuing on an organizational culture change strategy.
- An understanding and label of where we are and what that means to our fulfillment and effectiveness as people in the organization.
- A specific path and defined characteristics to improve
- An opportunity to create milestones and show progress to maintain motivation throughout the process.
Culture Bench-marking or an Organizational Culture Audit, can be done an internal survey allowing team member segments: Senior management, Middle management, and Staff to anonymously rate the characteristics above from 1 to 10. Tabulate the findings and compare segments to each other, then compile all segments and compare the overall perspective to each individual segment.
The other option would be to take the Culture Evolution Assessment – a culture benchmarking tool that uses the Culture Evolution model. This assessment creates the first benchmark then allows organizations to retake the assessments and compare how much (or how little) they have evolved. The assessment also tabulates and illustrates elements of the multiple culture evolution levels to help organizations see both positive and negative elements to reinforce or work on for organizational change.
This bench-marking assessment is a powerful tool to evolve corporate culture and can be found at: www.cultureevolution.com
The motive and motivation behind Culture Benchmarking
The motive and motivation behind Culture Benchmarking Most organizations have a vision… (even if they don’t know what it is really for). The concept of a company “Vision” is designed to provide a guiding purpose the is the foundation for every decision made in the organization… always asking: “is this decision in line with the organization’s vision”. Most organizations however do not communicate how far or close the team is to achieve that vision… which usually leads to most people forgetting about the vision.
Organizational change has the same emotional foundation as vision, only that there are specific structures and processes in place to achieve the specific “change” result which ideally should have a promise of something better in store for the team. Which brings us back to culture benchmarking.
When we lead organizational change, we need to know how far or close we are from the change objective… and we need to periodically check to see our improvement for two reasons:
- Keeping the change objectives constantly in the minds of the team.
- Motivating the team by confirming what they have achieved is of value in reaching the objectives
One of the primary reason’s leaders have difficulty in engaging their team in organizational change is that there are not enough milestones to measure and show progress of an initiative… not enough reasons to celebrate and people lose interest and sight of the bigger promise of a more efficient and possibly more fun work environment.
So when we know where we are, and regularly check our progress in relation to our corporate change promise/objective, it provides opportunities to calibrate.
We use the OCEAN Organizational Culture Assessment instrument for this purpose.
Building the 5 pillars of Sustainable Organizational Culture Change
Regardless of the practical and strategic elements of an organizational change initiative, the human factors must be in place for change to happen. Engagement is the key and engagement for change requires the five foundational pillars to succeed.
Pillar #1 – there must be a greater purpose
The biggest mistake organizations make in leading organizational change initiatives is believing that the employees, team, and even senior management’s lives are centered around the organization and its success… and so they move to create organizational cultures around that premise. But as human beings, our loyalty is not to an organization, but rather to emotional ideals and how those ideals benefit us.
To capture true loyalty when leading organizational change, the people must own the thing they are loyal to… and since everyone cannot “Own” your organization, we find the next best thing… an ideal that benefits the people and makes them feel emotionally connected to something bigger than themselves… a Greater Purpose!
But that leaves the BIG question… How do you get EVERYONE to have the Same Greater Purpose?
Fortunately, we have researched this question and surprisingly there is an answer that applies to everyone. In 53 different countries to over 80,000 people, different education levels and cultures, positions from CEO to Janitor, we have asked one question: “What is your Ideal Working Environment?” This question has yielded 5 primary factors that most everyone can agree with. These Ideal Working Environment Factors are as follows:
- Teamwork – people working together on the same team and helping each other to achieve team goals.
- Supportive environment – beyond teamwork there are other departments and managers that often get in each other’s way and may create silos. People want to be able to work across departments without agendas stopping the greater success of the bigger objectives.
- Clarity – whether they use the words, transparency, vision, direction… people want to have an idea of what they need to do to be successful (and be recognized for that success) in the organization.
- Trust – both sides of trust appear in words like innovation, autonomy, transparency, accountability… where people feel that they are trusted to do what is required, and managers feel they can trust their people to be accountable.
- Fun – self-explanatory, fun is the absence of Boring!
If we connect the Greater Purpose of “Creating the Ideal Working Environment”, we have a platform that will serve both Organization and Employee… and we have the first Pillar of leading corporate culture change set and the first key to getting buy-in to any change initiative.
Here is a relevant video on using multiple tools and assessments for organizational culture change
Pillar #2 – Having a Methodology to Achieve the Greater Purpose
It is quite difficult to get people excited about the Greater Purpose if they don’t believe it could actually happen… and they usually don’t. So providing them with a methodology that gets fast visible results (we mean really fast, like within the first week) is needed to get the continued engagement and excitement of the staff to push the initiative fast forward.
The methodology applied needs to provide the psychological tools for people to believe they can achieve this Greater Purpose and become more successful in their jobs and results… Yes, the majority of people WANT to be more successful in their work, but many have become disengaged or given up due to politics, lack of trust or respect, or lack of a clear direction… The Ideal working environment provides the remedy for this state of “going through the motions”.
There are numerous methodologies that can achieve this, like Peter Senge’s Learning Organization, and of course, the Directive Communication Psychology which is designed for this purpose.
There are 11 keys to a successful “organizational change methodology”:
- Must be easy for all staff at all levels to apply
- There must be a visible practical personal benefit to the outcome
- It must support individuals to find greater facets of who they can become
- It must easily and neutrally create awareness’s that support a greater understanding of other’s actions and processes
- It must connect personal success with organizational success
- It must have built in “application” and reinforcement mechanisms to perpetuate its implementation
- It must be able to provide fast, visible results
- It must not try to “change” people, but rather, Enhance them.
- It should provide practical tools to measure and connect everyone that support awareness
- There need to be clear parameters of what to do to achieve the Ideal Work environment objective
- It must contain and reference predefined communication
Pillar #3 – Having a Common Language that reinforces the Methodology
Predefined communication is the idea that one word, acronym, or phrase provides an association to a much larger meaning and understanding of a specific process, awareness, or concept.
When a “methodology” has a Common Language, practical applications of entire concepts that individuals learn can easily be applied through this language…
To manifest organizational change, people need to have the “Greater Purpose” in mind consistently. Having a language for the specific methodology that is designed to achieve that greater purpose keeps the initiative fresh and helps with sustainability. Every time someone uses the language relating to what they have learned and implemented to achieve this Greater Purpose, not only is the knowledge reinforces but so is the objective… a more effective and engaging work environment at the center of leading organizational culture change.
Pillar #4 – A Unified Identity
Organizational change needs to be the majority’s passion… but it’s not easy if the organizational culture and effort belong to the organization. The people need to feel it is “Their” culture, they must own it. The unified identity provides people with a sense of ownership of the organization and helps maintain the passion of an entrepreneurial mindset when it comes to the wellbeing of the company.
For organizational change to happen with this type of emotional buy-in, we create an elite group. This elite club is populated ONLY by people who are active and want to make a positive impact by creating the Ideal Work Environment by using the Methodology and speaking the Language.
The group must have a Name and a tagline/short mission phrase. It must have Guiding Principles that set the standards of behavior its members commit to, and it has a logo and colors. In essence, it is an exclusive club. One that only believers get to be in.
And if you are not a believer, someone who uses the language and applies the methodology… you are the “Enemy”. And this is an important role. Throughout history, divided factions have united against a common enemy and leading organizational change is no different. Identifying those who would thwart the efforts of the majority in creating a better place to work and the ownership emotions that go with its creation, helps to unite people more actively to overcome the enemy… And the easiest way to get rid of an enemy is to make them your friend. In our experience in implementing these initiatives we find the members pool together and strategies on how to get this enemy more involved. In some cases, we have seen efforts last as long as 5 months to convert an owner’s brother with eventual success.
Of course, not every enemy will convert, some cannot let go of ego or control, and then a decision must be made: do they remain in the organization? If the individual has a high value to the organization but little influence over others, it is of little consequence if they stay. But, if they have influence over others, this is the key factor that can DESTROY an organizational change initiative and make leading organizational change an uphill battle.
On average we find that 83% of the people will buy into this type of bottom-up initiative within 9 days, and the majority joining the Unified Identity within 14 days.
Pillar #5 – A Supportive Environment
While this sounds obvious… we should support each other… there is a deeper meaning here related to leading and sustaining organizational change. A new organizational culture must support people where their friends and family do not!
Crazy? Well not so much. We all wish to improve something about ourselves or our life and often we do not have the discipline or support group socially. When we create a Supportive Environment, one where it is safe to share what you personally wish to achieve (anything from stop smoking to write a book), and each person is there to push, reminded, and visibly encourage each other to realize their personal objectives, we nurture attitudes of a higher standard.
This structure is put forth from the inception of an organizational change initiative. But to maximize the impact, it is passed on to the masses by a select group of individuals. These are called “Key Influencers”.
Creating a predictable outcome of the culture change initiative
The success of an organizational change project is largely determined by its predictability in a bottom-up initiative. If you have considered a Top-Down program, let me present you with this questions: Is it easer to have a small group of senior managers get buy-in from 1000 team members, or, is it easier for a thousand team members to get buy-in for a predictable outcome from a small group of senior managers?
Once the organizational culture has been benchmarked, the discovery of what people want to change and who are the positive and negative Key Influencers are essential. There are many expensive and complicated processes to discover gaps in engagement and what areas of improvement will support fast organizational change. We find that simple interviews asking 4 questions and playing a 7-minute game with a 15% cross-sample of the participants yields the same results and has the bonus of identifying the company’s emotional mix which affects corporate culture. With this simpler process, we can predict the outcome of a bottom-up initiative that will be in line with organizational values and create a sustainable and engaged culture.
The Company Motivational Blueprint from a 7-minute emotional profiling game:
The purpose of this is to identify the emotional mix of individuals and determine the primary “Motivational Blueprint” of the organization. When a large enough cross-section is complete, we compare it to the values and desired organizational culture. If there is a mismatch, we need to know upfront so we can fix it.
The game is simple. Using a deck of CBC Cards (Colored Brain Communication Cards), we ask each interviewee to choose 5 cards that best describe what they would do if they had Ten Million Dollars.
The cards have specially chosen images that elicit subconscious values, memories, lost knowledge and help individuals get more clarity that answering “off the top of their head”.
When the player chooses a card, the image is not what is important, it is the meaning they give to the image that tells the story. These are based on the Directive Communication Psychology, Emotional Drive model that can be seen at: www.emotionaldrive.net/what-are-emotional-drivers combined with the Colored Brain model at: www.coloredbrain.com
The interviewee explains each card and why they chose it. The interviewer interprets the emotional mix and clarity process of the individual. Then combines the data with other interviews and determines the motivational mix of teams and the organization.
In this game, the meaning of each image represents a primary emotional drive and also shows which emotional drives are not important. The process or how they explain and chose cards identify their genetic “ambiguity relief” clarity process (colored brain) that affects how they approach things.
Usually, each individual will have 3 to 4 primary emotional drives that affect “WHY” they do what they do and these decisions are filtered through their “HOW” colored brain process. In this effort, we are mostly concerned with their “WHY” which should have similar associations to the organizations “WHY”. When these emotional drives align with organizational values and the desired culture, the organizational change process is much easier. When it does not, either we modify the outcome and values of the culture, or we modify the staff mix to get a positive organizational change result.
The purpose of the four questions is to identify two essential factors required to predict the outcomes and catalysts for organizational change.
The 4 questions:
- If you were the CEO, what changes would you make in the organization and its practices?
- What are your biggest frustrations working here?
- Who are the people that you respect and appreciate most in the organization? Why?
- Are there people who you feel are hindering your ability to succeed in this company? Why?
Question 1 and 2 are essential for the same outcome – identify the issues creating disengagement. Different people will respond to one question more than they would to the other, so we get a more complete perspective.
While we may get some answers like: We want fresh fruit in the pantry. Or everyone should have their own private office… the majority of the answers will relate to issues that MOST of the staff agree with, and that are viable concerns for their own sense of value in relation to the organization, their productivity and emotional connection to the organization, and visible perceived problems that affect their engagement.
The other 2 questions are to identify people who have positive and negative influences on the organizational culture. These are the Key Influencers and the ones who have the potential for positive change will be leading the organizational change program with support from coaches who work with them to implement the methodology.
Connecting to senior management desired outcomes
Buy-in happens before the culture change initiative starts. There are 2 steps to making this work.
- A 1 day session with leadership team to identify what they want to achieve in their organizational culture, including the Ideal Work Environment. We discover if the issues identified by the staff and senior manager have gaps and what those gaps are. In most cases, we find more similarities than differences. In the case of the ideal working environment, it is always the same.
- The next step is to look at both discoveries, the desired outcomes of the senior management, and the frustrations and improvements from the masses. See what matches and identify parameters of time and budget for implementation… then work with senior management to define acceptable parameters and areas of focus for the organizational change and culture initiative.
Once senior management agrees on what is acceptable and what is not, the successful and aligned culture change process becomes a matter of facilitation to ensure the people in the organization independently come up with the same thing. This is easier than it sounds because they already have identified the biggest issues. So when they come up with often brilliant solutions to solve these issues, it will not be a surprise… it will only be a matter how much time and budget resources they will use to solve them.
Who are the Key Influencers who lead Organizational Change?
To capture the trust and buy-in from the masses, consultants or senior management have limited influence compared to people who already work with them and are trusted and liked. Regardless of their position in the organization, there are individuals who other respect and listen to. These people are key influencers and have the foundations required to lead organizational change.
But not all key influencers support positive change. In our Culture Evolution Change initiative with the Malaysian government, we encountered a very positive young lady who was very ambitious in developing her career. She personally felt that learning and excelling were important for her. She also had a very strong belief that if you did not wish to excel or improve, that was your right, and no organization should try to change you. This young lady had much influence and people listened to her because the message supported less effort. She meant well, but her message was taken literally by the masses who once in the system, could not lose their job, and it negatively affected productivity, engagement, and competency development. But the worst part was that people who were not in her circle and were encouraged to spend time and effort improving their skills and competency actually enjoyed their jobs more than those who felt doing as little as required during work time was in their best interest.
To counter this we worked with her and included her with the Positive Key Influencers to understand the consequences of her influence while respecting her values. When she understood her role and some of the counter value consequences of her influence, she supported the initiative, and the organizational culture improved for everyone.
But not all individuals with negative influence were ready to accept change. One manager was very invested in his way of dealing with people which created low motivation and poor engagement. His perspective was one where he was the manager and his way and process should not be questioned. The idea of helping the people to create their own culture to support their success threatened his authority and he rebled. In communicating with him, he suggested that if we wanted organizational change that supported the organization, we should pay him to do it his way which was better. We felt he was not able to work within the confines of the culture and identified him “The Enemy”. While other peers also tried to support a more productive attitude towards having an ideal work environment, he did not respond and we recommended removal from the current position. Since this organization could not remove anyone from their job, we created a “Happy Department” where the negative influencers were moved to. While they maintained their same pay, their job description was changed to creating a weekly newsletter that identified all the positive actions and attitudes of others who supported the improved culture and the people around them. After some time, some of the people in this happy department became more positive and were restored to other positions… but not all.
When have identified the positive Key Influencers, they become the implementation leaders. it is not the consultants or the management who lead organizational change, it is the dishwashers who tell jokes or the pretty girl in accounting who is always smiling or the tea lady who listens and knows more about what is really happening in the company than the CEO… Anyone who is leading organizational change needs to get the key influencers on their side.
How key influencers influence organizational culture change
Key influencers are collected. Before they begin influencing organizational behavior, each has a specific group they impact. So, each key influencer creates a cell of these people mixed with people from different departments and their own supervisor or manager. With this mix, they provide the right mix of influence and diversity and build trust and confidence with their manager/supervisor. These groups consist of between 8 to 18 people and one will have the CEO in the group run by a general staff member that is in the key influencer’s group.
In day one key influencers learn the relationship between culture and group dynamics psychology, and the culture change process. They go through a variety of exercises where they identify their Ideal Work Environment as their greater purpose (even though we already know what it will be) and brainstorm ideas for their Unified Identity in line with this ideal. They then learn one facet of the methodology to achieve this “Greater Purpose” and its application to improve their corporate culture.
On day two, the same key influencer group takes their findings and ideas about the Greater Purpose, Unified Indemnity, and application of the one element of the methodology, and shares it with their influence cell. They get feedback and work on buy-in from the cell to work towards the achievement of the ideal work environment.
They also identify between one to five issues in the organization they want to change (these have been identified earlier through the discovery process) In most of the organizational culture change initiatives we do, there are 2 groups of key influencers. While group one is implementing on day 2, group two of the key influencers is in class, then implements on day 3 with different cells they influence.
This process continues for 10 days, one day of facilitation and training with specific objectives, and the next day of implementation. The final day is a presentation attended by the entire organization, where the Key Influencers present to senior management (more on the specifics of this below).
Leading organizational culture change methodology through key influencers – 12 Global Factors
What methodology you use for the culture change process will determine organizational performance and how you divide the efforts and strategy with the key influencers. There are fundamental elements of a bottom-up organizational change initiative to show results. These are:
- The methodology and process must show visible results FAST– Leading organizational change in the current age of “NOW” requires speed since we are less patient, less tolerant and if something doesn’t show a result quickly, we often dismiss it as not useful. Even though we may have a great plan and promise great new and exciting working environments… today, people will be skeptical. To get the buy-in to insight and perpetuate the organizational culture change process, people NEED to see fast, even almost instant results. but when they do, it goes viral. People spend their own time and extra effort because the promise appears real, and so seeing it through is exciting and personal.The down side to getting this kind of Fast Visible results is that it usually disrupts the efficiency of operations during the 2 week implementation period. We have attempted to spread out the process to reduce the disruption… and we found the benefits and impact of the shorter implementation largely outweighs the 2 week disruption… and highly recommend the sucking it up for the bigger payoff.
- You must do a discovery to identify the issue BEFORE you start – The discovery helps define the issues so the initiative so the senior management is not surprised of what the initiative will yield. The predictability of the outcome is essential to align expectations from senior management as well as staff.
- Key influencers lead the organizational change process– peers are trusted more than consultants or management. When a peer we trust share ideas and includes us in the process of change, we are more honest, we take more action and we internalize it more because we feel there is no Extra agenda. We feel they really care for our wellbeing. After all, they are one of us.
- Methodology training and facilitation must be divided into one-day sessions and focus on One module of the methodology at a time– long training and facilitation that does not create opportunities to practice in real-world situations do not stay with us. But when we learn, use the learning to create strategies to solve real problems, then teach others while implementing what we have learned, it not only stays with us but we gain emotional satisfaction and confidence in leadership roles for our future.
- People must be allowed to fix company problems affecting culture– the majority of the staff is experiencing the organization and its culture at a different level than senior management. To let them have ownership, they must choose the issues that create the biggest obstacles to their personal success through the organization (this excludes financial compensation-related issues). As this is predetermined before in the discovery and guidelines are already agreed on, alignment is already in place.
- Guiding principles (code of conduct related to core values) must be created by the people– when the people set the rules of behavior for themselves, they hold each other accountable for their actions. These rules also apply to all levels of management and support more effective leadership since everyone is help accountable for treating each other with the “Type” respect the people wish to have in their work environment. This increases engagement and motivation yielding high productivity.
- Everyone must be involved in the organizational change process – The key influencer cells combine to include every person in the organization. Each day of training and facilitation must provide the opportunity for key influencers to work through feedback from their cells and take it back to them with input from all others – the process must be personalized to what the people want. When the people feel they are heard and they have power to change for the better, they nurture their entrepreneurial spirit and find a new passion, new innovations, and better ways to communicate and achieve… especially if the “Methodology” is supporting these. The key influencers’ job is to get everyone involved in creating the organization’s culture. After getting the feedback from their cells, they collaborate to find common ideas so all the people in the organization have a voice. To build the ownership of people and the culture and support success for everyone… including the organization.
- The management team must actively participate– A key factor in the success of the initiative is the minimization of barriers and maximization of trust between the staff and the senior management. It becomes essential that they participate as Learners and are educated and facilitated by subordinates (preferably front line or younger staff). The bigger the gap, the bigger the effect. When these sessions are documented and shared, this provides high-quality PR value for the sincerity of the initiative and senior management’s integrity.
After our successful work with Emirates, one Airline requested a presentation for the same process. However, when we mentioned that the entire senior management team must spend about 3 hours every second day to be in a subordinate’s cell, they implied that their “position” needed to be maintained and they could not afford the time. We explained that the program would not be effective without their active involvement and when they indicated we should do it without them, we decided not to proceed. This factor is so important to the initiative’s success that we would rather give up a lucrative assignment to ensure the right deliverables. Do not let Ego get in the way of success.
- Size Matters– we find the maximum group we can effectively implement this process with is 1200 people. Any larger group can be broken down into divisions or areas.
- Negative influencers must be removed – One person who has influence and a negative focus can have a dramatically negative effect on the organizational culture. While there may be legal or emotional issues surrounding this, there are ways to remove people from the mix without firing them. In one instance with the Malaysian government, we created a special department called the “Happy Department” (as mentioned earlier) to isolate the negative influencers and redefine their KPI’s to discovering and communicating the positive actions of people who are supporting the culture.
- Produce an entertaining show to catalyze sustainability– the culmination of the methodology training and implementation is presented in one 3 hour show where everyone from the organization shows up. The show should be directed and participated in by the key influencers. Its objective should be to present the new culture and guiding principles to senior management and share how this will create a competitive advantage. In this theatrical presentation, they present the culture they and their cells have agreed they want to create, strategies to achieve this, recourses required, strategies on how to fix 5 major issues affecting engagement and performance, and some fun representations of the Before and After culture… Organizational leaders instantly agree! Why? Because it was predicted before the initiative started and they know exactly what the outcomes would be.
- Elect generals – once the culture, guiding principles and 5 issues to work on are agreed on by senior management, they need to be implemented. The role of the generals (2 or 3 individuals) is just that… to be the liaisons between the people and the senior management to support execution and implementation of the organizational change that is planned and agreed to. Because most are still performing their usual job duties, this extra responsibility should also come with a paycheck. Extra money not only provides an incentive for future generals but creates a sense of responsibility for the outcomes. The term of office should not be more than 3 months and they should not be able to run for 2 consecutive terms. This is designed to minimize complacency and to revitalize the actionable initiative every three months during the elections. 2 weeks before the elections, individuals wishing to get the General post, a campaign to show how they can improve continue to improve the culture and the actions they will take to do so. Besides the extra money they receive, the bigger benefit is the leadership track it puts them on for their career.
Local Factors that Affect Leading Organizational Culture Change
- Preparation – the efforts prior to any bottom-up initiative in leading organizational change will largely depend on the type of organization. Because the organizational culture change process requires a disruption in operations, an assessment of how to maintain business during this time is essential. For example, a manufacturing company with deadlines to meet must prepare a surplus to cover a potential shortfall during the 2 week implementation. A retail organization must prepare their customers that during their 3-hour Big Presentation Show, retail outlets will be closed.
- Cultural diversity – the mix of national and/or religious culture plays an important part in the process of leading organizational culture change. In our experience, when we had an extremely culturally diverse organization such as Emirates, LimKokWing University, or Qatar Gas, it is much easier to create a high-performing and mutually respectful corporate culture. Creating unity allows the initiative to provide the emotional gratification of belonging and achievement through the organization. On the other hand, an organization like the national housing arm of the Malaysian Government was homogeneous to race and religion. They already had a sense of unity, but not through the organization. Because of sensitives and cultural foundations, expanding the perspectives of high performance was much more difficult, especially where some would use religious references as reasons why they should not be required to “work hard”. Understanding the cultural and religious factors of a culturally homogeneous group in an organizational culture becomes essential to success. The organizational change process must incorporate these factors into the discovery and strategic implementation.
- Organizational structure – independent organizations who operate autonomously from a larger organization will have different parameters than an organization with strict central management. If an organizational culture change initiative is to be disseminated throughout the multiple large divisions and/or countries, personalization of each through the people is still essential for success. The organizational structure and culture plan should be considered before the organizational change discovery. Each area or division should also define each of the cultures to identify gaps or perspectives. In cultures like Disneyland, LimKokWing University, or the Ritz Carlton, the culture consistency is key to the expected experience. But in organizations such as Intel or OSRAM, culture is largely dependent on the location and division. Both are fine, but the execution is dependent on the global and local organizational structures and the identification of their culture evolution.
- Leadership Team structure – because of the importance of senior management involvement, the structure of the perceived “leaders” becomes important. Who the BIG Boss is and who makes the decisions that affect their lives at work may not be the same. Managing perceptions and showing that the people with power care about Their Ideas and Their culture is essential for success.
- Congruence in Senior Leadership Style – most managers have an idea of how to be a good leader and they may believe they are executing it, but the perception from peers or subordinates may be very different. These “Perception Gaps” are the downfall of many managers because since they believe they are doing the right thing in the right way, they do not see the need to change. But when they become aware that their actions and execution are not having the effect they “think” it is, it becomes easier to close the gaps and become more congruent with the leaders they want to. We use the EDMA 360 Gap assessment tool (www.emotionaldrive.net) to help leaders be more congruent with their leadership. And if the same leaders are leading organizational change initiatives… well, there my be some issues!
- Current level of culture evolution – the lower on the culture evolution scale an organization is, the more dramatic the results. Fortunately, this bottom-up organizational culture change process is not more work if the current culture is less evolved. When the staff can see bigger change it actually ignites more excitement and effort to achieve the desired result. Organizations that are already at a complacency or above level need more effort to take than next step. This is why knowing your culture evolution level is essential.
Sustainability in Leading Organizational Culture Change
- The Common language: this supports regular reinforcement of the methodology related to creating a great company culture.
- The Unified Identity: being part of the in-crowd reinforces what you are trying to achieve and connects you with like-minded individuals. The group itself reinforces the emotional gratifications of being part of a tribe with greater aspirations.
- The Common Enemy: an enemy that would take away what you have worked for is a powerful motivator. In my book that supports leading organizational change “The Architects of Extraordinary Team Culture – 5 Secrets Hidden in the Ancient Pyramids” I described how architects of the great pyramids kept people motivated for 23 years by regularly finding and highlighting new enemies to the completion of the Pyramid of Khufu. Each time an enemy appeared (like the Babylonians trying to make a bigger structure than them… and they are ahead), identifying the enemy is a powerful tool in the evolution of a positive culture.
- Quarterly Elections: each election is an opportunity to revitalize the ideals that make work a great place to go and achieve. And when you have been a part of it creation, you have a vested interest in making it grow… especially if you are reminded about all the reasons you worked on it in the first place.
- Dedicated Elected and Paid individuals who focus on clearly defined results: because the Generals have the specific responsibility to implement the outcomes of the organizational culture change program, they keep the promises and needed actions highlighted to everyone. They have communication as their weapon. They identify and promote those who live the culture and abide by the guiding principles. They find culture heroes who help others achieve objectives… they are the implementers and the PR agency for organizational culture sustainability.
Deepening the Impact of Culture Change Strategies
In the journey of sustaining a transformative organizational culture, several nuanced strategies have been identified as pivotal. These strategies, when understood and implemented in their full depth, can profoundly influence the longevity and effectiveness of culture change:
1. Common Language: Reinforcement through Shared Terminology
- Importance: A shared language unifies the team, ensuring everyone understands and communicates using the same terms and concepts.
- Application: Regular workshops, meetings, and internal communications should consistently use this language to discuss goals, challenges, and achievements.
2. Unified Identity: Building a Collective Sense of Belonging
- Importance: Fostering a unified identity helps individuals feel part of a larger mission, enhancing teamwork and collaboration.
- Application: Create initiatives that celebrate this identity, such as team-building activities and recognition programs that highlight collective achievements.
3. Identifying a Common Enemy: Leveraging External Challenges
- Importance: A common adversary, whether it’s a market competitor or an internal challenge, keeps the team focused and motivated.
- Application: Regularly identify and communicate these challenges, drawing parallels with historical or metaphorical examples, like the builders of the ancient pyramids, to inspire and motivate.
4. Behavioral Gamification: Encouraging Engagement and Performance
- Importance: Gamification transforms routine tasks into engaging challenges, fostering a competitive yet collaborative environment.
- Application: Utilize platforms or applications that track and reward performance-related behaviors, tailoring the rewards to align with organizational values and individual motivations.
5. Regular Rekindling of Ideals: Maintaining Momentum through Continuous Engagement
- Importance: Periodically revitalizing the core ideals prevents stagnation and keeps the culture dynamic.
- Application: Quarterly events or elections can be held to celebrate successes, introduce new ideas, and reinforce the organizational culture’s principles and goals.
6. Effective Communication: Sustaining Awareness and Recognition
- Importance: Continuous communication ensures that the achievements and exemplars of the desired culture are visible and celebrated.
- Application: Regular updates, newsletters, or meetings should highlight successes, share stories of cultural heroes, and provide guidance on how each individual can contribute to and benefit from the culture
By diving deeper into these strategies, organizations can more effectively embed them into their daily operations and mindset. This approach not only solidifies the culture change but also makes it a living, evolving aspect of the organization, continuously adapted and improved by its members.