Culture Doesn't Change, But It Can Bend

Opt 1 2014-04-20 Blog


It is often said that culture change is the most challenging change one can attempt in an organization. In fact, Edgar Papke, Vistage Speaker and author of True Alignment, says that culture can only change when you change the majority of the people at the same time.

Hmm, does that mean if we aren’t willing to fire 1/2 of our team, we may as well not bother?

I say no. While I agree with Edgar that complete change will only happen with a complete change in players, culture does bend.

It’s hard; it takes a long time and can sometimes (often) be frustrating. Yet, the results can be worth it. Here is an eight step process (synthesized from John Kotter’s landmark book, Leading Change) that can serve as a template toward bending the culture.

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency
  2. Pull Together a Guiding Team – choose a powerful group with leadership skills, credibility, authority and a sense of urgency
  3. Develop a Simply Stated Vision for Change – paint the picture of how the future will be different
  4. Communicate – create a surprising, compelling and visual experience – strive to change feeling, rather than thinking
  5. Empower Others to Act – remove barriers, including people that are barriers
  6. Produce Short Term Wins – find them and celebrate them
  7. Don’t Let Up – press harder and faster after first successes
  8. Institutionalize the New Approaches/Behaviors – continually reinforce

Elisa K. Spain