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Culture of Change

Optimize Blog - September 29, 2014 - 0 comments

When thinking about making a shift in culture we need to clearly understand that any cultural transformation takes a long time. How long is long? Well that depends on how strong a culture currently exists and there is a correlation between the age of the business and how embedded the culture is.
Clearly a new start company will have a rapidly forming culture whereas a long established company will have a deeply embedded culture supported by systems, processes and behaviours which ensure that the culture survives.
Time after time we see acquisitions where the heritage cultures continue for many, many years thereafter – even decades. This is made worse where there is no physical merging of the employees causing pockets of sub cultures that remain largely undisturbed by the corporate ‘one team’ propaganda.
In addition to these obvious cultural differences cause by acquisition, almost every company has numerous corporate cultures. For example, the marketing department and the engineering department may have very different corporate cultures which are both influenced by the overall organizational corporate culture. Many times these two sub-cultures can clash.
Business leaders often assume that their company’s vision, values, and strategic priorities are synonymous with their company’s culture. Companies need a good definition of corporate culture before they can begin to understand how to change the corporate culture.
So how would we define the term ‘culture’? Perhaps – “The system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviours, and artifacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another and that are transmitted from generation to generation through learning”. For a business we might refine this as “A blend of the values, beliefs, taboos, symbols, rituals and myths all companies develop over time”.
In both these definitions, it is clear that time plays a major part and culture evolves and develops over long periods and therefore trying to change that culture in a time frame that suits or supports a change in business direction or requirements is actually not often possible, if ever. Trying to change an organization’s culture then is a potentially meaningless aspiration if timeframes are not appropriate and that the leadership team fails to recognize it as a distant, long term goal.
One of the approaches to start the realignment and change in culture is to pick a specific type of behaviour and focus on that. In this case, what better element to pick than the management of change. Delivering the ability to effectively manage change creates the ability to not only deliver a truly competitive advantage but also improves the ability to drive change throughout the organization and therefore to change the culture.
Does the management of change present a competitive advantage? We think so because change is a constant and in fact the frequency of business change is becoming greater. Just a simple review of technology over the past ten years underlines the rapid pace of change. Those companies that are unable to keep pace with the management of change soon start to complain of ‘change fatigue’ which causes drag on resources and impairment of performance. Those that invest time in making the management of change a core competence will steal a march on those that do not manage change well.
Delivering behaviours that impact the culture is a winning strategy. Delivering change management as a core competence and critical leadership trait takes the organization to a place where agility and an execution focus in the maelstrom of the changing environment delivers practical returns.

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