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To Guide Change, First Establish a Culture of Change

Organizational culture is set in the past and shapes its future

Organizational culture is what sets you apart from your competitors. It can also be the element that allows your competitors to catch up with you, and eventually overtake you. In this article, you’ll learn about how culture impacts the change process. You’ll also discover the key steps to create a culture of change in your organization.

What is organizational culture?

Culture is the foundation of everything your organization stands for. It includes the values and beliefs that dictate individual and group behaviors.

What does organizational culture tell us?

The culture of an organization tells us much about it, including the way in which your organizational hierarchy operates. Culture defines your organization in many ways, such as whether it is inward or outward focused, innovative, flexible, or rigid. It tells us how to expect leaders to act and employees to behave.

What if culture doesn’t embrace change?

Culture is created over many years. Culture reinforces the behaviors that it has created, and many people confuse these behaviors as being the organization’s culture. This is misinterpreted as the reason for success. When this happens, failure often follows. Examples of this include:

  • Blockbuster, which was the number one video rental company in the world. It failed to spot the market moving toward online downloads. By the time it realized it had failed to innovate and change to the new market direction, it was too late.
  • Kodak was all powerful in the photographic industry in the 1970s and 1980s. Its research and development team even invented the first digital camera. But it failed to forge ahead with the new technology, believing that digital would never catch on. From a market share of almost 80% in photographic paper and equipment, the company slid into obscurity and eventual bankruptcy.

Can you change culture?

As the pace of change in the business world and in society speeds up, it is imperative to have a culture that embraces change – so that your organization doesn’t become the next Kodak or Blockbuster.

I won’t pretend that changing culture is easy. After all, your organizational culture has been developed over years. Many of your employees have probably been with the organization for years. However, given the right motivations and with a structured approach, it is possible to establish a culture of change that will allow your leaders to guide change.

3 steps to identifying a culture of change

To change your organizational culture, take these steps:

  1. Understand your current culture. Examine what it is that compels your people to act the way they do. Consider things like office policies, communication methods, colleague interactions, and even use of space.
  2. Now, consider what type of organization you want to be. Define your future vision, and decide the culture required to support this.
  3. Develop a new set of guiding principles. Rewrite your mission statement in line with your future vision. Understand the behaviors expected by your new values.

With the definition of your culture of change established, it is now time to put it into practice.

Supporting the establishment of a culture of change

You will need to break the old culture and replace it with the new. You will need to plan and execute a strategy that enables people to unlearn the old values and the behaviors it supported. Simultaneously, you will need to embed the new values and mission that will combine to guide the behaviors you intend: those behaviors that will encourage innovation, creativity, and a willingness to change.

How do you support this? There are several important elements, most notably:

  • Leadership must walk the walk, not simply talk the talk. They must be visible in their support for the new culture, displaying the behaviors expected of others. Support from the top must be constant and consistent.
  • Training will be needed, to explain and inform. Cultural shift will be accompanied by behavior change, and training may take the form of one-on-one coaching as well as group training sessions and team building events.
  • A communication strategy will be needed to ensure that important messages are received and understood. A variety of communication methods are likely to be used, and leaders may need to be coached in emotional awareness to improve their interpersonal skills.
  • Mentoring will provide an effective solution to those employees who are most resistant to change, and will also enable future leaders to be identified and developed.

If your organization’s culture doesn’t support innovative, creative, and change-orientated behaviors, then it should be addressed. Imperative to this is enabling your leaders to guide change.

To discover how a Change Agent Bootcamp and coaching in consulting and facilitating will help your organization and leaders produce lasting change, contact Forward Focus today.

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