Is your organisation embarking on culture change? Or perhaps you are already down that road and are looking for make it a success?
Well, there is no perfect formula to change the culture in an organisation; there are however some critical factors that should be considered in making it a success. Three pillars of successful culture change as informed by extensive research and experience are a) Leadership influence; b) Social normalisation; and 3) Ringfencing mechanisms.
In other words, whichever approach an organisation considers in changing the culture, its potential for success can well be evaluated against these three pillars. We discuss each as below:
Leadership influence refers to the critical role leaders play in influencing and shaping the type of culture the organisation should adapt. Examples of culture change leadership strategies include:
- Being aware of and understanding the ideal cultural orientation the organisation should adapt;
- Determining the emphasis and extent of culture change required either an overhaul, modification, or maintenance;
- Knowing the leadership approach and or style necessary to acquire the desired future culture, and last but not least,
- Designing and implementing a culture leadership plan (mostly around decision making, communication, and engagement of teams and other stakeholders).
Culture change success probability increases when led from the top thus must deliberately include planned activities for the leaders towards the desired change. Leading culture change cannot be taken for granted if a culture change effort must succeed.
Social normalisation refers to how the rest of the organisation, individuals and teams, consciously travel through the culture change journey, characterised by being aware of the need for culture change; the type of culture change required; embracing, adopting and applying the new culture; and normalising the new culture in their day-to-day work and engagements. Examples of social normalisation strategies include:
- Designing the ideal culture language and artifacts necessary to drive formation and normalisation of the desired culture;
- Intentionally projecting and applying, in various forms, the culture language and artifacts;
- Training individuals and teams into new ways of working;
- Carrying out culture emphasis forums and dialogue within the organisation for a sustained period of time;
- Tracking and monitoring the rate of culture adoption; and
- Evaluating, learning and improving.
Most culture change programmes tend to take this form, where there is a great emphasis on behaviour change and normalisation of new ways of working through culture change emphasis engagements. While this is known to be an effective strategy, it cannot work in isolation of the other two pillars.
Ringfencing mechanisms refer to strategies or interventions which ensure culture change is enabled and embedded in the organisation for long term sustainability. These include:
- Change where necessary and practically possible, of physical settings (infrastructure, office/workspace set-up, tools and technology including IT);
- Revision and enforcement of policies and procedures to accommodate culture change; and
- Incorporation of culture change into performance planning and monitoring.
An effective culture change approach needs to intentionally and actively incorporate strategies and interventions in all the three pillars to guarantee greater chances of success.
Dr. Antony Mburu
Organisation Development and Change Management Consultant