Creating A Culture Of Change – Guidelines for Leaders

A common mis-perception is cultural change has to start at the top of an organization. However studies have shown that culture change begin with the sub-culture of a

Change Ahead

Direct the direction of change

work-group or team where a leader who is one or two levels down from senior management decides to stand up for more. As objective evidence of believable performance improvement becomes known to other managers, change often goes horizontal across the organization through other work-groups, then up through the line organization to top managers. There are ten guidelines that leaders can follow when under-taking this kind of culture change.

  • Find.  Use measurements to reinforce the fact that change is actually happening it helps accelerate change. Use existing measures (or create new ones) to dis-confirm the old ways of seeing the team’s level of performance and to build quantitative evidence that the change has happened and that it will be sustainable. Identify examples that convincingly demonstrate the value that the change is adding to your work-group and the overall organization.
  • Be Authentic.  Make sure that the proposed changes are in the best interest of the overall organization, not just the interest of a specific group or team. Build credible capability and a foundation that benefits the whole organization and sub-optimizing the organization’s overall performance.
  • Be Specific.  Solve a particular problems and let it become an example of the change you’re trying to achieve. Operate from a “no-blame” philosophy that doesn’t point the finger at others, but takes personal responsibility for performance within the organizational context it is embedded. As Jim Collins describes, when there are issues and problems to be solved, look in the mirror of personal responsibility. When there is praise and recognition to be apportioned, look out the window and ascribe credit to those who have made the change possible.
  • Utilize Your Resources.  Obtain resources based on the values they add to solving the problem. Find an area to develop or one that has been traditionally neglected by the organization and turn it into a high-performing workgroup. Strive to build new organizational capability that can be transformed into revenue or an enhanced ability to achieve the organization’s mission and goals.
  • Alignment.  Coordinate your team’s vision with other work-groups, departments, and functional units by focusing on the things you hold in common. While each team may have a different function in the overall organization, its activities should be aligned to achieve a common purpose and the goals of the overall organization. Alignment of mission and goals and focusing on what an organization has in common are the core differences between being a “group” of people and being a “team.”
  • Be Positive.  Convey the trade-offs of actually accomplishing change to work-group members. As an example, if your goal is to increase productivity, then this will require more time and energy from group members and increased resources may not always be immediately available until the team demonstrates its increased productivity to managers. But positive change often brings increased visibility with senior managers that can result in professional advancement for those involved in the change.
  • Communicate.  Connect the “meaning” for people both in and out of your team so changes are interpreted through the lens of your team’s vision. The purpose of culture (any culture) is to teach people how to “see” the world, so make sure that the actions and interactions of your team are properly explained and interpreted to managers and peers so it’s clear how your vision links to the overall organization’s purpose and goals. Remember that people tend to see exactly what they expect to see, so help to shape those expectations for people both in and out of your work-group.
  • Engage. Manage constructive conflict with other groups or managers, and only do this when you have to for the best interest of the overall organization. While constructive conflict can create synergy, creativity, innovation, and improvement, the destructive conflict that comes from criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling that is displayed in meetings, e-mails, and other human interactions frustrates and undermines an organization’s ability to achieve its purpose and goals.
  • Build A Community.  Develop allies who will support the change and form open coalitions to ensure that change is sustainable. Focus on winning the support of those who are skeptical about the change by involving them in the process or showing them how they make similar improvements in their teams.
  • Lead The Change.  Create a concrete, tangible path-forward with credible next steps and a well-defined picture of the value-added that the change will bring to the overall organization. Having established the long-term vision of the change and achieved some initial results that show change is possible, it is important to define what constitutes a “win” or how we will we know when we’ve arrived. It’s also important to map out the behaviors, skills, and process changes that will be necessary to carry the change initiative all the way to the finish line.

Bottom Line: Culture change can begin at any level because organizations are collective-cultural entities that are led, managed, and changed one person at a time.

If you would like more information on creating a culture of change for your company, contact a senior consultant with Ember Carriers at (513) 984-9333 for a complimentary consultation to discuss your company’s needs.

Web: www.embercarriers.com|Twitter: www.twitter.com/embercarriers|LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mhladio

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