Culture is essentially the way an organization does things. Culture is something that is shared either in the organization as a whole, or among specific groups or functions within the organization. Culture drives the way in which people behave within the organizational setting. It’s important to organizations because the way it does things has a direct impact on the effectiveness of the organization.
Culture is difficult to measure possibly because it is not a hard process that can be adapted and changed through the directives and policy. Instead culture is intangible, and is built from a mixture of norms, beliefs, values and symbols that are played out in the day-to-day machinations of organizational life.
We introduce 5 basic guidelines for organizational culture change:
1. Learn from the experts: – Before you start freewheeling on culture change, I’d recommend that you read about great cultures that are thriving today. Make sure you pay attention to every nuance and bit of information you learn. Experts in the area of culture change are very few today, because the most powerful business driver the past 30 years has been economy of scale, critical mass, size, market domination. Let’s be clear there is nothing in those definitions about culture. Those are economic indicators. I’d recommend you look for organizations which people are excited, happy, work hard and finding joy in what they do.
2. Know your audience: – Make time to know and understand the audience. If you’re speaking to employees, you need to know their names, what they do, what they’re contributing, and what is personal to them. That is really tough when focus has been largely economic. Pay attention to the words they use which gives them happiness in work and what really bugs them. These will give you a sense of the level of trust, motivation or interest.
3. Offer new information: – As much as you can, research new ways to bring life to the culture change topic. If you can share stories of great cultures you’re on the right path. And share new information how culture truly affects employee performance and happiness. Share the Gallup survey information which is very powerful and factually describes the benefits of engagement.
4. Don’t wait till the end for the best: – As all of us know with cell phones, blackberries, I-pods and all the technology, most have very little patience for old “suit talk”, old drama. For example…don’t wait till the end with this. “I want to share, that I understand it doesn’t always feel good to work here. I believe you deserve better. I apologize. Today, I’m reaching out to begin changing how it feels to work here. I’d like each of you to write 5 things we do which don’t serve the employees well. Also, write down 5 things we could do which would be cost neutral but make this place feel better to you. ” This is a great start.
5. Use uniqueness: – Create some uncertainty with this meeting being different. Not just a flavor of the day uniqueness, but words rooted in honesty and things you believe in.
These guidelines will serve you well as you decide if and how you wish to adjust organizational culture.