How to Not Lose Your Company’s Culture During Change

Losing a Company’s Culture During Change

Is It Possible to Lose Your Company’s Culture During Change?
Unfortunately, it is possible to lose your company’s culture during change.  We define company culture as the way things truly get done in a company.  It can be measured by the way employees think, behave and work on a daily basis.  It includes the recognized and unspoken values and assumptions that drive key business behaviors and practices.  In short, an organization’s culture is what defines it.

Protecting the Best Parts of Your Company’s Culture During Change|
Certainly, company cultures can and should evolve over time.  But what happens when there is a major strategy shift, new leadership, a reorganization, a major change in talent, a merger or an acquisition?  Is your own company’s culture healthy enough and aligned enough to be up for the challenge? Is your own carefully wrought cultural identity as an organization at risk?

The short answer is “yes.”  Unless you…

1. Are Strategically and Culturally Proactive
Leaders who want to retain the best parts of their company’s culture during change need to be ready ahead of time. Instead of waiting for their culture norms to be diminished or even destroyed, they need to invest the time, planning and effort to head off a “culture clash” so the integration and alignment of change goes relatively smoothly from a cultural perspective.

2. Assess and Align Organizational Health, Performance, and Culture
As with any challenge, a clear plan, established proactively, can facilitate the path to success.  The key is to identify what you want to start, stop, and continue doing across three levels of culture that we call the little, medium and big Cs of culture:

The best cultural changes thoughtfully address each of the 3 Cs to ensure that the changes can effectively flow through their people and their culture to get implemented.  For example, a recent client found a material mismatch of culture in terms of how and where decisions were made between two divisions that were merging into one.  Another client found that their historical approach to risk taking was not aligned with their new solution offering.

3. Actively Involve Stakeholders
Find out both the fears of and what matters most to leaders, employees, partners and customers.  Co-create a plan that capitalizes on strengths and minimizes weaknesses.  Certainly you need to deal with real concerns about how the changes will impact specific customers and individual employees; but try to focus on the realistic benefits and opportunities that lie ahead.  A good rule of thumb is to put 2-3 times as much rigor toward a smooth cultural shift as you invest in the strategic and financial aspects.

4. Communicate the Plan Broadly
Once you have been proactive, identified strengths and weaknesses and actively involved your key stakeholders, it is time to communicate what you know, what you do not know and when you will be able to fill in the gaps.  Use clear, concise, and compelling language and make sure that you encourage feedback and open discussions.  Give everyone time to get used to the new reality and begin to appreciate the upside.

The Bottom Line
If your organization is about to undergo major change, make sure you have a plan to handle organizational health, performance management, and how work gets done compared to your strategic priorities.  Our organizational alignment research found that culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing companies.  Are you at risk of losing your company’s culture during change? Are you proactively aligning your company’s culture with your desired changes?

To learn more about the 3 Cs of culture, download The 3 Levels of a High Performance Culture

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