organisational culture change

What is a company or organisational culture? It is as simple as “How we do things around here, sometimes a set of unspoken believes that govern how people decide what to do”

To explain it in more details, it is the environment in which we work, the standards to which we are held, the relationships we have with our colleagues, the processes in which we communicate, and the unspoken beliefs we share with our staff members.

Companies often make the mistake of assessing culture either too late or not at all in their change management program. The company culture is focused on the human side of change management. It’s the alignment of the company’s culture, values, people and behaviours that encourage the desired results in change management. We learned from the Elephant and the Rider metaphor that the human side of change management is vital and that strategy, plans, processes and systems themselves do not capture value. Value is realised only through the sustained, collective actions of the employees who are responsible for designing, executing and living with the changed environment.

Change programs can be used for:

  • Creating a culture (New companies, start-ups)
  • Combining cultures (M&A)
  • Reinforcing cultures (Long established companies)

Before starting a change initiative, you need to do some cultural diagnostics that can show you the readiness for change in your organisation. These culture-related diagnostic questionnaires should identify your core values, beliefs, behaviour and perceptions of your organisation. Ones understood, the company management should be explicit about the wanted culture and behaviours that will best support the new way of running the show. This should include a desired end-state of the wanted culture, including a performance management model to reward these behaviours.

There are different ways to define your wanted company cultures according to Geoffrey James, there are three steps to define your company culture.

  1. What do you believe business is all about?
  2. What is a business?
  3. How do you think about management?

See more about Geoffrey James here:

Another method for defining and identifying your company culture is to break it down in four main areas:

  1. Espoused values; are the publicly stated values and standards of an organization.
    • Mission statement, Objectives, Goals, Publicly stated standards
  2. Enacted Values; are the standards and norms that are actually exhibited by a company and the organisation’s employees on a daily basis
    • The Brutal truth of a company culture and there is always a discrepancy between the Espoused and Enacted values, but it can’t be too big because that will give frustration between management and the employees.
  3. Basic assumptions; are the core of an organisation’s culture
    • They are unobservable and taken for granted; so much so that they guide a company’s behaviour without having to be explicitly stated
  4. Observable artifacts; are the easiest part of an organization’s culture to identify because they are the visible components of a company
    • Office layout, logo’s & branding, how employee dress, meeting behaviour, interactions among colleagues, acronyms, office layouts

So when looking at the human side of an organisational culture and change you need to address and pay attention to 5 pillars:

  • Assumptions
  • Beliefs
  • Perceptions
  • Thoughts
  • Feelings

They all have to be addresses in your change program and what we learned from the Elephant & the Rider is that in order to motivate the Elephant it is crucial to work with bright spots in your company. So, try to find and work with what is called culture ambassadors (bright spots). These culture ambassadors know how to live the change the organisation is making and will be able to support spreading the word about why the (culture) change is important.

Ones you’ve defined your organisation’s culture, you have the power to change it for the better. You can empower employees by ensuring the culture is consistent, cohesive, and transparent. Positive company culture that has high levels of employee loyalty, satisfaction, and productivity is directly linked to customer loyalty and satisfaction, and more importantly, profit and revenue growth.

The focus of Assumptions, Beliefs, Perceptions, Thoughts and Feelings in your organisation is often an effective way to rock your culture and orragnisational change.

This blog post was written with the inspiration of the following websites:

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash