Culture: The Invisible Enabler of Change

by | Last updated Jul 17, 2023 | 1 comment

A new order of work

Change is the name of the game and building change as a strategic organisational competency makes the difference between organisations merely surviving versus thriving. Change management is how organisations mobilise people to deliver results. It’s a strategic competence that increases the organisation’s responsiveness to evolving market dynamics. Changes today are faster and more complex with innovation and technology across all industries requiring constant learning.

Organisations are needing to continually evolve to ride the wave of changes brought on by escalating climate risks, market volatility, geopolitical uncertainties, the future of work, technological disruptions, competitiveness and shifting consumer demands. In KPMG’s 2022 CEO Survey, 79% of CEOs stated that they were planning for an economic recession. This is likely to result in more mergers and acquisitions in 2023, layoffs and downsizing, and a shift in priorities. There will be a trend in organisations going back to the basics, as well as restructuring. Leveraging technology to drive growth and remain competitive will therefore be key.

Long-term stability is the dream, and organisations need everyone onboard to ensure they can transcend their industry’s specific challenges.

A new order of work

Why is culture important to change?

Culture is the unseen element that gives an organisation its competitive advantage. Culture permeates everything in the organisation – performance, productivity, engagement, innovation and results. Culture encompasses what an organisation values and believes, and instils meaning and purpose. It informs behaviours and interactions, how decisions are made, what is of importance and what is not. Culture truly is the lifeblood of an organisation.

The pace of change requires organisations to intentionally promote practices that enable agility and responsiveness to external forces. Cultures that encourage employees to bring their best selves to work are more likely to deliver results than those that do not. Organisations should aim to create environments that equip staff to not only deal with change but to thrive. Culture, therefore, needs to be translated into daily behaviours to identify what needs to be kept and what needs to be left behind to enable change to happen effectively.

The perfect conditions to enable a culture of change

Leadership commitment & involvement

Research has demonstrated the positive effect of good leaders in driving organisational performance, efficiency and success. Rigid mindsets and getting stuck in the past, on the other hand, will damage an organisation’s ability to move forward and embrace newness. Leaders must be intentional in recognising their role in building and shaping culture, as well as arresting damaging behaviour amongst peers and their teams that hinder the organisations effectiveness.

Leaders should also be committed to influence change through inclusivity, buy-in and being the change themselves. They have the ability and power to harness culture by tapping into the way people already think, behave, work and feel to provide a boost to their organisational changes.

Having a clear vision of change

Change is a significant organisational effort that’s made more difficult by a lack of clarity. Mixed messages create confusion and disorder, and can breed mistrust which hurts employee engagement.  Good change leaders bring alignment and clarity, rallying the organisation around a common purpose and vision, and creating the environment for the vision to be realised. Employees need to understand why a change is being implemented and how it connects to the organisation’s strategic direction. This vision needs to be translated into plans that are cascaded through departments, teams and individuals so that everyone’s contribution towards the realisation of the bigger picture is clear. This gives meaning and purpose to work and in turn, fuels motivation and engagement.

Values are vital to change

Cultures that encourage openness, innovation and inclusion enable employees to collaborate, problem-solve, innovate and unite in their common goal. On the flip side, cultures that breed mistrust, through insincerity, double speak, prejudices, biases, stereotyping, abuse and back-stabbing, hurt an organisation’s ability to set change in motion. What is ignored is tolerated and leaders must be intentional in identifying what is not working and fix it, building on the existing strengths of their cultures for competitive advantage.

Employee engagement enables change

Research has shown that how an organisation manages change impacts the degree of employee engagement. Organisations with higher change maturity and that have embedded change management as a managerial and strategic competency report higher levels of employee engagement. These are organisations that have a culture of engaging with staff, encourage buy-in and inclusivity, tap into peoples ideas and suggestions, and recognise the integral role people play in driving results and outcomes. High engagement usually comes when employees are more supported and equipped through the changes. Environments that enable employees to work optimally and adapt to new behaviours see more buy-in from their people.

It is more difficult to drive successful change with poor employee engagement, as low engagement leads to compromised productivity, employee turnover and a tangible impact on customers. Employees in such environments tend to be detached, perform at the bare minimum to get by unnoticed, experience higher levels of stress and have a general lack of enthusiasm for work. Engagement problems should be addressed through regular check-ins, engagement surveys and conversations.

Culture should not be ignored and organisations should harness its power to fuel successful change and boost change initiatives. Culture is the invisible enabler that organisations should not forget about.


1 Comment

  1. Joseph

    This piece is profound! This resonates with the idea of what gives life meaning. Basically, cultures that prosper are founded on the virtual of telling the truth and taking responsibilities.

    Any young person reading this, especially if trapped in life confusingly state of self unawareness, must discover

    Dr Jordan B. Peterson – My Icon!!!


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