1. Get Clear on the Why and What of Culture Change
Senior leaders need to be clear on why they want to transform the culture and what the aspirational culture should look like. What are the measures of success for you and your organization? Decisions about change appear to cluster into two archetypal theories and strategies for change, both of which are not sufficient on their own. Michael Beer calls them Theory E, which focuses on creating economic value, while Theory O focuses on developing organisational capabilities and culture. Leaders are encouraged to embrace the paradox sometimes created by both archetypes, called the third strategic choice. This integrative strategy has the benefits of short-term financial performance as well as long-term benefits of sustained change in all three pillars of performance (see point 3).
2. Engage the Entire Organisation
The engagement process must start with the top team. We often find in organizations that there may be a handful of change champions who have an inspiring vision of the future culture. Yet it is the CEO and his or her team that must first buy into the change (including the reasons why it’s important) and then fully engage and support the change. While culture change needs to be driven from the top, it won’t be sufficient if that’s where the initiative and drive stays. Senior members of the organization also need to be engaged, empowered and given the knowledge and skills to continue the cultural transformation. Concurrently, employees at all levels must be engaged and energized by the change process and feel part of it. The principles of adaptive change and shared leadership are critical drivers.
3. Focus on the Big Picture of change
Organisations that are able to deliver sustained performance have developed the three pillars of:
- performance alignment
- psychological alignment
- capacity for learning and change
Performance alignment occurs when the total organisational system, including systems, structures, people and culture fits performance goals and strategy. Psychological alignment is the emotional attachment people have at all levels, particularly key business unit leaders to the purpose, mission and values of the organisation (“I just love working here” is heard a lot). If the organisation is to sustain both performance and psychological alignment, it must also have the capacity for learning and change.* Read more about our consulting philosophy and methodology here.
* Beer, M. High Commitment High Performance – How to Build a Resilient Organisation for Sustained Advantage. San Francisco : John Wiley & Sons, 2009.