Organisational Culture : Making the Change
Organisational culture – a success factor that can take an organisation to greater heights; it can also be the biggest threat to its future survival!
Organisational culture consists of beliefs, practices, values, attitudes and goals that engulf the day-to-day running of the organisation. It is unique to every organisation and evolves through time. It is the compilation of the organisational life experiences, accumulated and passed on through generations of employees. Behaviours and decisions made either reinforce the culture, or oppose it. While it helps to create stability, consistency and certainty in the organisation, organisational culture can be an insatiable monster which devours strategies and change in its path. This may be why 70% of organisational transformation efforts fail.
So why is organisational culture change so difficult to achieve? Culture concerns people – their behaviour, beliefs, expectations, sense of security and comfort zones. People generally resist change since change brings uncertainty about the future. Change challenges a belief system and philosophy. It forces one out of a manageable context into the unknown.
So how do we start a culture change?
- People need to know why change is necessary and how urgent it is. Changes linked to business continuity or organisational survival will be more readily accepted.
- Expectations of future behaviours and results need to be established and communicated clearly. Can the people see where the organisation is heading? Will the journey bring more benefits and advantages compared to staying status quo? Are current values and advantages under threat?
- Leaders need to be actively involved and show genuine interest in the change. Leaders need to lead by example, provide direction and resources and make the occasional decision.
- Education is crucial to provide understanding, knowledge and information regarding the change, the expectations and new practices to be adopted. Organise briefing sessions, promote the ideas and talk about the change in meetings and discussions. Create a general awareness throughout the organisation.
- Open up channels for two-way communication. Gather feedback from the masses to understand their concerns regarding the changes.
- Start doing things differently. Change happens when behaviours and actions change. Rituals and habits are difficult to break, but change has to start somewhere. Re-examine existing processes and practices. Encourage the people to question the established routines : is there a better way of getting things done? Why are we still doing things in the same way when we want greater results?
- Focus the change on a few key behaviours. A culture change will eventually involve a vast range of behaviours and practices. Start by selecting a few key behaviours that give significant results.
- Start small. People are less likely to resist small changes. They are also more likely to accept bigger changes once they experience the advantages of the smaller changes.
- Engage the people. Get everyone involved. Solicit ideas, effort and advice towards the change – people take pride in playing a part in a success story.
Do not expect miracles. Sustainable culture change takes 3 – 5 years. People absorb and adapt to the beliefs and behaviours around them. The more they are exposed to the new practices and beliefs, the higher will be the probability of a successful change.
Cultural changes are at risk of running aground owing to operational priorities, leadership changes, organisation restructuring and mergers. While change is difficult to achieve, organisations simply cannot risk becoming irrelevant and obsolete. The business environment will continue to evolve and subsequently expel organisations with outdated ideology and practices.