Corporate culture is the company’s value system. It flows from one place only — the top. Changing a culture is an evolution, not a process and not an event. Impatience will not serve anyone well. Patience is a requirement. The corporate culture can not change unless the LEADER changes, or unless the LEADER delegates the authority to change and then stands aside and allows it to happen.
So if you LEADERS really want to create a culture change, I’ve got some tips:
- What you say has nothing to do with creating the company’s culture. It is only what you do that matters. Stop talking, crafting speeches, selecting slogans and tag lines and start showing up, being seen, and modeling what you are talking about.
- Culture starts to be created with the first day on the job, as the employee’s observe the boss’s every move. Be aware of their ongoing and relentless scrutiny and show that the messages you are sending are designed to encourage the culture you publicly espouse. Employees at all organizational levels watch the boss like a hawk and are always watching. Don’t forget it. You may think they have better things to do – but this one of the things they think is pretty important.
- Just like skiing and gymnastics, you can not learn and improve in an environment where you are not allowed to fall down. Encourage risk taking and allow first-time mistakes. Determine how much risk and failure can be tolerated, and focus on what is learned from attempts. If you punish, limit, curb or eliminate any person for trying to do something new, people learn quickly to keep their heads down. Innovation IS risk.
- Change is inevitable and the corporate culture will need changing from time to time. Take steps to inventory and alter the existing culture when it no longer represents what is best for the company. Don’t be afraid to ask “Why is it done thins way? Is this the best/more effective/more efficient? Is there a better way? If we were creating this today, how might it be different? “ And be brave and smart enough to listen to the answers.
- Do not underestimate the difficulty of changing a culture of an acquired organization (or your own organization for that matter). The road to change will take twice as long as you think, and casualties will be twice as heavy. Be prepared to go slow. Have a plan based on data, not just hopes and dreams. Spend time doing a cultural audit to determine how big the gaps are and what may need to be done to eliminate or reduce them.
It’s not easy to feel the urgency every day AND take the long view. Culture change requires both.