What is Culture Transformation?

watch-icon June 7, 2021

What is Culture Transformation?

If you’ve ever worked in a corporate environment the chances are you’ve heard the term culture change.  

Notwithstanding that culture is a term used extensively to describe the human experience in society or at work, it still leaves many confused as to what it actually is.   

I believe this is because there are two critical questions not one… 

  1. What is culture?  
  2. How does Cultural Transformation happen?  

Many people have an answer to the first question but are left baffled at the second.  

There is no single definition of culture that seems to satisfy all people completely. But when you ask people what it is, most have a reasonable answer. Many say “it’s what we do around here”, some say “it’s the unwritten rules”, some say it’s “what behaviour is expected either formally or informally”. Anthropological definitions highlight the artifacts that make a society unique. All are correct.  

It’s what we do, why we do it that way, and why we don’t change it.  

In my new book “Culture Inc” I simply define culture as the form, flow and feel of a business. Form – how it is set up and what foundation stones are laid, flow – the structures that keep us working in a certain way, and the feel – the outcome of the first two things.  

This definition reveals to us three fundamental things about culture:  

  1. It is Holistic  
  2. It is Social  
  3. It is Learned 

Culture is created by people and held in place by people. Therefore people can change it. Just be aware, Culture is not bad. Your culture may not be delivering the outcomes you want, but to view it as simply good or bad undermines the work needed and relegates culture to an emotional concept again.   

The second question is the one I notice people struggling with the most. Because the definition of culture is so broad, people think that culture change is harder than it is. They believe there’s magic to it. Or they believe it can’t change.  

Let’s first define change v transformation…  

Change looks to enhance the past. Transformation is about creating an altogether new future. A butterfly is something completely new and not just a superior caterpillar.  

It may be that, on the most part, your business is going well and delivering the outcomes you want. You may want to change a few things to get better outcomes, but overall, you are pretty pleased with the results. You may just need a more superior caterpillar, so you engage in culture change.  

However, perhaps you’ve noticed your customer satisfaction rates falling, your staff engagement decreasing, the quality of work is suffering, and profits are declining. This is when a superior caterpillar isn’t enough; you need a butterfly.

Simply knowing you need change is just the start. Now what?

Now you get busy analysing, planning and doing. You set goals, you monitor performance, and you roll your sleeves up and make changes.

It’s simple when you really think about it. It’s just the work that is hard. To truly transform your culture, you have to have a clear vision, values and strategy. You need to make different decisions. You need to recreate processes. You need to stop doing things that have served you in the past and start doing things that feel uncomfortable.

The transformation will deliver better results but takes hours of work, time and know-how. I’ve seen great transformative work and I’ve seen great change management in action, and I’ve seen absolute disasters. Not surprising the disasters happen because of a lack of capability in the change lead. Or it may be that your business needs transformation and you have someone leading you through change.

It reminds me of that Meme on Facebook – “If you think it’s expensive hiring an expert… wait till you hire an amateur.”

If you want to explore your business culture change or transformation needs with an expert then drop us a line at SynergyIQ and we will explore the mutual benefits of working together. 

Michelle Holland