An Underused Way to Make Culture Change Stick

An Underused Way to Make Culture Change Stick
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Culture’s Role in Business Success
We know from our organizational alignment research that workplace culture – how work gets done – accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing companies. And recent research by Deloitte reports that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a clear company culture is vital to a business’ success. But how to you make culture change stick because, simply put, culture matters.

Culture Change
We also know how difficult organizational change can be. Changing corporate culture is no exception. And trying to make culture change stick is even more of a challenge.

An essential key to success is the commitment of company leaders to the change through their repeated messaging, their role modeling, and their holding employees accountable for the behaviors and results that support the desired culture change.

The Power of Symbols
During change, symbols are often the most visible and recognizable signs of what you expect.  Symbols, quite simply, stand for something else; they can be especially powerful as concrete objects that represent something abstract.

Adapted to the corporate world, think of a clock that can stand for time management, a scale for work-life balance, a target for maintaining focus on the goal, and an elephant for the issue no one dares to raise or discuss. When it comes to how to make culture change stick, some of the most powerful symbolic assets that are under-leveraged are:

  • How work is organized
  • Who sits where
  • Which stories are shared
  • How teams are structured
  • What you see when you enter the office
  • How offices and parking are allocated
  • Where time and resources are invested
  • Which accomplishments are celebrated
  • Who is promoted and fired
  • How teams work together
  • How budgets are allocated

How can your company’s symbols be changed or leveraged to help create the desired culture you need to successfully execute your strategy?

The Power of Symbolic Actions
Symbols are helpful reminders of the change. If you are looking to generate more innovative ideas, for example, pass around a light bulb during your roundtable brainstorming session. Model the acceptance of all ideas. Your team should come up with varied, novel, and unexpected ideas which can be analyzed at another time for feasibility, alignment with company strategy, and support of company values.

Research shows that, when leaders model the behaviors they are asking employees to adopt, culture changes are over 5 times more likely to be successful. Employees watch their leaders carefully; they are prompted to change when they have visible proof that their leaders are fully engaged and committed to the transformation.

The Bottom Line
Culture change can be catalyzed by symbols and actions that are congruent with desired behaviors. Get creative and see what symbol and associated actions can inspire you and your followers to stay on track with the high performance culture transformation.

To learn more about how to make culture change stick, download Changing Corporate Culture: 4 Do’s and 3 Don’ts

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