Every organization has its own culture, which should be a reflection of what is important to the company and what is necessary for it to succeed in the marketplace.
In order to maintain this culture, it may be at times necessary to transform certain areas by changing behavior or implementing new behaviors to better reflect corporate priorities. Regardless of what the desired culture is, organizations often overlook these four crucial areas when undertaking a culture transformation.
1. A Plan to Ensure It Does Not Become the “Flavor of the Month”
When culture transformation begins, it always seems like the right thing to do, and it always begins with enthusiasm. However, once underway, it can be sidetracked and bumped down on the priority list. This sends the message to the organization that the transformation either wasn’t the right thing to do in the first place or it isn’t as important as was first thought.
In order to avoid this, the initiative must remain as high a priority in the third year as it was during the first six months. This requires management to closely monitor the inevitable additional initiatives and distractions that will compete for the top spots on the priority list and to coach the rest of the organization to do the same. Ultimately, a culture transformation will succeed if everyone, from executives to individual contributors, is committed to sustaining the focus until the goal is achieved.
2. The Importance of Including Everyone
When launching any form of culture transformation, it is important to include everybody. Although you may test components and think through various elements in advance, the transformation needs to be implemented throughout the organization all at once. When this is overlooked, it can leave one department with one set of policies, procedures, or approaches, and another with something completely different. This can lead to frustration and make it nearly impossible to remain aligned.
Do not overlook the need for the culture transformation to be all-encompassing. How people are trained and how they apply the new behaviors may look slightly different based on departments or teams, but the core behaviors and messages should be the same across the board. Delaying a certain group’s participation, or leaving them out entirely, is counterproductive and can negatively impact the overall initiative and desired outcome.
3. The Time (and Patience!) Required to Fully Transform a Culture
Every culture transformation will be as unique as the company itself, which means that the length of time it takes to fully transform the culture will depend on the nature of the initiative and the degree of behavior change required. In some cases, the new culture can take anywhere from two to four years to become fully engrained in the company’s DNA.
Remember that culture transformation is a long-term investment in the future success of your organization, not an overnight solution. It will require a great deal of patience, which upper management and shareholders do not always want to hear. In that case, help everyone understand that it will take time to provide effective training that teaches the behaviors of the new culture, time to apply those behaviors on the job with the support of leaders, and finally, time for them to see and appreciate that their efforts are valuable and making a positive difference.
4. The Link to Measurable Results
Company culture is a very difficult thing to measure, so you can relax knowing that it is not the thing that should be measured. What should be measured are the benefits or outcomes of the culture. This is much easier to do and far more practical. Shareholders are interested in the value that the organization is providing, and the culture is a component of providing that value. When evaluating a culture, the real focus should be on its impact.
For example, when creating a culture of customer centricity, the results you are measuring are customer satisfaction, while the outcomes of those results are increased revenue and competitiveness. Measuring your customer satisfaction rating prior to the transformation and then throughout will give you the data to track whether the changes in behavior coming from the culture transformation are in fact improving customer satisfaction.
For any culture transformation to be truly successful, these four things should not be overlooked or taken for granted. In the beginning stages of thinking about culture transformation, create plans to ensure none of them are overlooked during the transformation process.