Culture change happens through evolution… not revolution

watch-icon February 26, 2021

Culture change happens through evolution… not revolution

What is culture? 

I know you’ve probably heard the answer to death. Unfortunately what I experience as a culture advisor is that people are still unclear about culture. I still have to explain that culture is more than the behaviour of the individual employee. It’s more than how happy or engaged people are at work. So I’m just going to say it again.  

Culture is the way we do things…. and most importantly, WHY we do them that way.  

The culture of your business can be viewed as a collective subconscious of a business. The same way our very clever brains map out pathways to make driving a car effortless. We map our systems and processes to make running our business effortless. Well that’s the aim anyway.  

The principles of change whether it be an organisation, a team or an individual are essentially the same, have a desired future state, understand where you are starting from, plan for change, take action, review progress…rinse and repeat.  

However, the scope of change, and the way in which change is deployed for a business is more complex. This is because the psychological elements remain because the business is made up of individual people plus you have the added complexity of managing the conflicting needs of the individuals, the mechanisms of group dynamics, and the incompatibility of managing these needs within business outcomes, ie: market demand, customer needs, and financial pressures and you have a complex problem to solve.  

If you are selecting someone to help you they must be people who understand culture and change management, not just behaviour change. A psychologist is excellent when you want to focus on changing individual behaviours, and they can definitely add value to your culture program, but to truly change you need an agent for organisational change. 

As individuals ourselves, we tend to appreciate individual change. We’ve all tried to change something in our lives. Maybe it was learning to stop smoking, or lose weight, or start speaking up in meetings. 

The complexities of collective change warrant more thought, which is why I created the form, flow and feel methodology. 

The methodology allows managers, business leaders, CEOs and founders to identify and change the critical elements of their business, while also working on themselves. 

The way to change the culture of an organization on a long-term and sustainable basis is that every individual in that business creates change in themselves and subsequently creates the changes needed in the way the business functions. Simple huh? 

To change a business and to create the kind of culture that you want will take time. If you’re starting from a culture that has firmly established ineffective work practices, if your leaders are not willing to change their behaviour and/or if your business is quite large – over 250 people – it will take a significant amount of time to transform your business.

Depending on the size and strength of the culture it may take 3-10 years to transform. Regardless of the size or complexity, you can expect the transformation process to be a staggered staircase where you’ll take a few steps forward prior to taking a step up. It may feel at times that you’re taking steps backwards. This is all a natural process in creating lasting and corporate-wide business change. 

Transformation is not a simple thing. If it was a simple thing, then you wouldn’t be reading this blog at all because you would have done it by now. If you follow along with my 3F method, you create a plan which is integrated, and take deliberate action, then you can transform your business. 

You need to focus on what outcome you want to achieve. If the outcome is to create the kind of business that you want, then you need to do the work. You can bring in a consultant to do it for you and they will do a very good job, but if you don’t, as the business leader, take on this work and make it yours then there won’t be any sustainability to the change and you will just call in another consultant in twelve months’ time. 

When I’m working with my clients, they find it strange that I want to teach them how to make change so they don’t need to call me again. I want to ensure that they have the frameworks, the resources, the capability and the capacity to be able to create this change themselves. I know they can do it. I work with some extraordinary companies and extraordinary people who are very, very capable and have brilliants skills in their specialty areas. The reason they call me in is because I have skills in specialty areas that they don’t which is in organizational change. By working together we can achieve the result they want. 

A while ago I spoke with a recruitment agent who was telling me that they regularly get asked to help the manager with ‘culture change’. They decided that this would add to their profit margins so they put on a HR Officer to take care of the ‘culture change’ work. You can see how that is going to end in tears, can’t you?  

Another recruiter I was speaking to had the same questions but they were more interested in their clients success and therefore talked to me about a partnership arrangement.   

If you want culture change you can speak to your recruiter but understand that the skills for recruitment, and the skills for HR for that matter, are very different from the skills of culture transformation. Know what you are paying for and what outcome you will get from engaging the wrong skill set.  

There are a lot of consultants, trainers and experts out there and I know it becomes difficult to choose the right one. That’s where we are different.  

We are experts in Culture transformation, Change and Strategy. When we come across a problem that may require an expert we source an expert. We don’t just run a program that we think may help. We get someone awesome to do it. For example, a client was working through a major change and I was helping them with the strategy, change plan and leadership capabilities in change. They also wanted to support their people through change and do some resilience work. Now I’ve done enough, read enough and work enough in this space to have put together a workshop and run it for them. But I’m all about results, so I brought in an expert in this space to run their workshop. They did a much better job than I would have and my client got better results.  

Culture transformation is a complex beast because businesses and people are complex. Selecting the right support for this change is essential. If you want psychological change then get a psychologist. If you want physical change get a personal trainer. If you want holistic business change then get a culture/business transformation expert.  

Change is the only constant. Get the right kind of support for the change you are undertaking.

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Michelle Holland