How to Speed Up the Process of Culture Change

Snails racing across the finish line in a race to speed up the process of culture change

The Process of Culture Change Needs to Be Faster
Any organizational change can be difficult.  At best, the process moves forward slower than the challenge of your strategic objectives would like. But there are ways to speed up the process of culture change.

The First Step to Increase the Process of Culture Change
The very first step is to be crystal clear about the kind of corporate culture required to enable your winning strategy. Because strategy must go through culture and people to be effectively executed, you must not only be crystal clear on your corporate strategy, but also on the specific cultural attributes required to reach the goals you have set for your business.

Background: The “How” and the “What”
Think of culture as how things get done in an organization and strategy as what needs to be accomplished…the critical choices about where the company competes and what critical few actions it takes to succeed. It is, quite simply, the big problem you are solving and the decisions about how to prioritize your limited resources and energy to solve it.

Culture and strategy are inextricably linked.

Reach for the Tipping Point
You know the theory…there is a point at which a series of small changes becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change. The way it works in culture change is that once you have a small, but critical, group of employees living the desired culture, more and more employees will adopt the new values, beliefs, assumptions, attitudes and behaviors in a speedier and significant way.

Some research says that only 10% of the workforce needs to demonstrate and model the culture for it to be followed by the majority.  Our own experience shows that you need at least 50% of the workforce or 100% of your high performers to embrace and succeed using the “new way.”

Who Matters Most
If you are hoping to accelerate the process of culture change at your organization, you must identify the critical employees who will have the greatest impact on the rest. Here is where you should focus your attention:

1.  Those Who Lead
Certainly those who are in leadership positions and visible as role models need to buy into, support and exhibit the desired behaviors day in and day out. If leadership is not on board with the desired cultural changes, few employees will be motivated to shift in the new direction.

2.  Those Who Influence
Influencers are not always in leadership roles. We define influencers as those who have earned the respect and admiration of their colleagues. While they may not have the same visibility level of leaders, those around them listen to and follow them.

3.  Those Who Get It
Find those employees who already successfully exhibit the values and behaviors you want. Make sure they understand why those behaviors matter and how they fit into the business strategy. Then use them as enthusiastic champions to help spread the word.

4.  Those Who Are Open
There are some who will resist change. Instead go for the employees who are early adapters and support your strategic and cultural shifts. They can comprise those last few needed to reach the tipping point of cultural evolution.

The Bottom Line
Yes, patience is needed for a change in culture to take hold. But a clear strategy and a judicious selection of culture champions can drastically speed up the process of cultural change.

If you want to learn more about creating an aligned corporate culture, download 3 Levels of a High Performance Culture Strategy

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