Organizational Change Needs Cultural Alignment to Succeed

Organizational Change Needs Cultural Alignment to Succeed
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Organizational Change Needs Cultural Alignment to Succeed
We know from research and change management simulation data that almost three-quarters of organizational change transformations reportedly fail to meet expectations.  That paltry change success rate is unacceptable to us.  While organizational change can be complex, difficult, and fraught with risk, there is no doubt that employees, leaders, and companies must adapt to succeed over the long-term.

The Definition of Corporate Culture
We define corporate culture as the way work truly gets done on a day-to-day basis.  In every organization there is a combination of assumptions and behaviors that define the collective attitude of a company’s workforce.  In some organizations that unique combination helps to move important change initiatives forward; in others the way work gets done is painfully misaligned culturally with the desired new ways.

Change Must Go Through People and Culture to Succeed
While many external forces like technology, competition, and regulations can drastically impact change initiatives, we find that too many leaders neglect the internal impact of their workplace culture on attempts at meaningful organizational change.

In fact, recent research by Bain found that 94% of executives believe that their most difficult challenges are internal, not external.  And most of the barriers resulted from the complexity and bureaucracy that had accumulated over the years that no longer served their goals, problems, or needs.

Change and Culture
For real individual, team, or organizational transformation to occur, we encourage leaders to strongly consider the way work gets done and to understand their employees’ mindset about the change.  We know that many individuals and teams resist change at work because it upsets the status quo at work and, as such, is perceived as threatening.  When employees as a group react to change with fear or resistance, the change is many times doomed to fail.

Often, a meaningful change at work cannot be successful unless there is a change in way employees think and behave.  In other words, effective change depends in large part upon organizational culture — the beliefs and ways things get done at your company.

4 Steps to Align Your Culture with Your Change Initiative

  1. Define the Needed Culture with the Leaders of the Change
    We believe that the same people who are responsible for deciding to change should also be responsible for defining the culture required to best execute the desired changes. That means that the change leaders (and company leadership) must agree upon not only the current culture, but the desired corporate culture required to make the change a success.
  2. Assess Your Current Culture
    Once the needed culture for change has been defined by change leadership, it is time to get a reality check of how the rest of the organization perceives the current culture. We recommend assessing your current culture in terms of organizational alignment and health.  The data helps to set the stage for the key cultural shifts required for the change to be successful.
  3. Develop the Key Cultural Actions to Support the Change
    Once the cultural priorities have been identified, it is time to create practical and implementable action plans to align your culture to your change objectives. This includes preparing change leaders to review results, identify actions, and create success metrics.
  4. Deploy the Needed Culture
    Once you action plans have been agreed to, it is time to identify and prepare culture champions, take action, review progress, adjust accordingly.

The Bottom Line
When you seek to initiate real change at work, do not underestimate the way employees think, behave, and feel. Change needs cultural alignment. When your people change the way work gets done and why, then you will have a greater probability of successfully executing your change initiative.

To learn more about the levels of culture that must be aligned to successfully execute change, download A Purposeful and Aligned Organizational Culture – Your DNA for Success

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