The one thing that is consistent in life is change. We have two choices: we can either manage the changes that life throws our way, or we can let them manage us.
As an example, studies show that only 10% of people who have had heart bypass surgery, or an angioplasty make major modifications to their diets and lifestyles afterwards. What this shows is that most people do not alter their behaviour, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they should.
When it comes to change within organizations, we find that there are three scenarios:
Resist change. There are only a small number of organizations that fit this category. They are often dysfunctional and may never change their ways.
Lead change. These are early adaptor-type organizations that are classified as innovative. There are only few organizations that fit this category.
Walk a balancing act. These are organizations that work a balancing act between resisting and leading change – two opposing forces. This is where many companies have positioned themselves.
For organizations seeking to become more adaptive and innovative, culture change is often the most challenging part of the transformation. Innovation demands new behaviours from leaders and employees that are often antithetical to corporate cultures, which are historically focused on operational excellence and efficiency.
But culture change should live in the collective hearts and habits of people, and their shared perception of “how things are done around here.” Someone with authority can demand compliance, but they can't dictate optimism, trust, conviction, or creativity.
Leadership sets the tone, vision, expectations, and direction of the organization by demonstrating active participation, genuine interest, and transparency to the company. By conveying that something is important, change adoption rates increase and staff interest will be elevated.
So what does this all mean?
Be open to learning new concepts. People will naturally resist change even if the change is a glaringly positive one. So, start with the basics of ‘why’, the principles of change, and then move to the tools to get the change done. Wash and repeat.
And remember that culture change only happens when people take action. So start there. While articulating a mission and changing company structures are important, it’s often a more successful approach to tackle those sorts of issues after you’ve been able to show people the change you want to see.
Sometimes you must dig down to foundational level concepts to ensure that your continuous improvement and lean culture change is a success. But do not be discouraged – what you are doing is critical for the company’s development and business health. The future will be much brighter with your efforts.
Walker, B Soule, S (2017), "Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement, Not a Mandate", HBR, USA. https://hbr.org/2017/06/changing-company-culture-requires-a-movement-not-a-mandate
Katzenbach,I Kronley, C (2012), "Cultural Change that Sticks", HBR, USA. https://hbr.org/2012/07/cultural-change-that-sticks