Leading an organization through change can be exciting yet challenging. Most companies are unsuccessful with transformation efforts because it requires changing the actions and behaviors of every single employee. Transforming a culture requires changing the hearts, minds and skills of the workforce. In order to do this, it is important to have a clear picture of the desired outcome and involvement of all leaders at all levels. Furthermore, it is important to have a proven path to success. A company’s cultural transformation seems like a nearly impossible task, but with the right approach, it is possible.
Understand Cultural Transformation
Initiatives that bring about change are aimed at solving problems or seizing new opportunities. The success or failure of the change is determined by the individual behaviors of the workforce. The culture of an organization is made up of an individual’s behavior, problem-solving skills, communication and their ability to get things done. The positivity or negativity of these descriptions determines the success or failure of an organization.
Why is Cultural Transformation needed?
Cultural transformation is beneficial to a company. Changing the behavior of individuals typically results in increased sales revenues, improved customer care services and fewer safety accidents. These are just but a few examples of benefits an organization stands to gain from a cultural transformation when the Board of Directors or customer feedback deems it necessary to have a change in culture. When an organization has a blend of many cultures and its culture is poorly defined then there are no clearly defined standards or a common direction for the organization. This results in wasted energies, efforts, resources and opportunities. In order to avert such a situation, it is important to implement a disciplined approach towards culture transformation which aligns every employee and leader on what to do and how to do it for a specific outcome to be achieved.
When and Where to start
Cultural transformation should not be procrastinated due to an apparent pressing situation because employees will be using the already identified sub-standard methods in resolving the ‘pressing’ issue. In the end, the results would be unimpressive compared to when a culture transformation had been started. Once the need for a cultural transformation arises, do not hesitate. The earlier you begin to change the way people do things, the sooner they will learn the desired behaviors and the greater impact they will have. If the changes are for the better, then they will make their works easier and it will feel seamless and helpful to them once the change initiative begins. Building a complete picture of your current culture is important to have an idea of what needs to change and what can remain.
The following tools can be helpful in this process:
-360 or 180 degrees surveys. The intention is to capture the impact of certain leadership styles. -Focus groups to gather information from all level employees -Meetings with high-potential employees who are influencers in your organization -One-on-One meetings with executives. They have the most impact on culture -Surveys to gather information in large organizations with employees in multiple locations.
These data points enables you to codify current culture behaviors exhibited by leaders and team members. More importantly, you can move to the next step of setting measurable objectives for changing those behaviors.
The different roles in Cultural Transformation
The Leader’s Role
-Offering visible support. Leaders may not be involved in every aspect of change but they determine the final outcome. -Modelling behavior that is required for a successful change in culture. People look up to leaders since they are highly visible. Therefore, the behavior they portray is followed by others.
The HR’s Role
-Designing communication strategy -Training individuals -Tracking progress -Offering feedback -Providing tactical guidance to leaders on how to support the transformation -Linking the culture transformation to the HR cycle of recruiting, performance management, career planning, succession planning and promotion. The HR and leadership team chart the course of transformation.
-Adopting new behaviors at their own pace depending on their willingness and ability. Every organization has a different process of cultural transformation. However, there are key principles that apply to every company that make the process successful. They include:
1.) Change led by executives. The message sent by executives is crucial. If they are seen to be supporting the process of transformation, then the employees will support the changes as well. However, if they are seen to be delegating and unconcerned with the changes, then the employees will follow suit.
2.) A clear line of sight Understanding the tangible benefits of a change is important for the team members so that they can be motivated. It is necessary for them to understand the current state of the organization and to see the benefits materialize once the process of change begins. Frequent communication by the leadership team to the employees about their progress and anticipated benefits sustains the momentum across the board.
3.) Clarity on behavior A cultural transformation should be communicated in practical terms in order to have every employee on the same page. They need to know how every day-to-day priorities, decisions and behaviors will be affected by the changes.
4.) Change captures the employees’ hearts and minds It is possible to have an intellectual understanding for the need of change but to be reluctant in changing habits. It is important to build the emotional convictions of the employees on why they need to adjust to the new changes. Appeal to more than just their intellect. Appeal to their hearts.
5.) Experimental learning Opportunities should be created for teams to actively learn new skills associated with transformation and apply them on the job. An environment of support and allowing employees to ‘not get it right the first time’ is essential. In this way, their convictions that the changing process is rewarding and beneficial are enhanced. Every change should have a finish line once the objectives are realized. However, a relapse to old behaviors is possible. Sustaining a new culture requires pride in the results from the transformation and the continued commitment to model new behaviors. A strong culture is one that outlasts the management that initiated it.