How to Create Lasting Culture Change at Work

How to Create Lasting Culture Change at Work
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Lasting Culture Change as a Competitive Advantage
Successful leaders recognize the power of a healthy corporate culture to bolster their success; they also understand how a negative corporate culture can undermine performance. Strong positive cultures accelerate desired change rather than hinder it. And with all the change required to keep up these days, organizational culture — how work gets done — can certainly be a company’s competitive advantage in terms of people and performance.

Foster Lasting Culture Change for Improved Performance
Want to achieve higher performance, better focus on your customers, and more consistent strategy execution? Follow the next five tenets for lasting culture change to improve all-round business and people performance:

  1. Align Culture with Strategy
    How often have you heard the phrase “culture trumps strategy”? It has become a watchword for leaders because it is true.

    Our organizational alignment research found that strategy and culture alignment accounts for 71% of the difference between high and low performing companies in terms of revenue growth, profitability, customer loyalty, and employee engagement.

    We know the power of a strategy that outlines clear and compelling choices about where to play and what actions to take.  Strategic clarity can set a company up to perform beyond just the sum of its parts.  When it comes to performance however, strategy is only the beginning, not the end.

    Some strong cultures help companies perform (i.e. Southwest Airlines) and some strong cultures hurt performance (i.e. The Department of Veterans Affairs).

    One thing is certain — as a leader, if you do not understand your current culture and purposefully shape your desired culture to align your culture and strategy, you will not perform at your peak.

  2. Accentuate the Positive
    Unfortunately many leaders who recognize that they have an unhealthy or misaligned corporate culture try to  update corporate values or wipe the slate clean. From our experience, neither approach will create lasting culture change at work.

    Instead, as long as we are not talking about a toxic corporate culture, we have found that it’s far more effective to identify and honor the strengths of your existing culture. Look for the positive aspects of your culture; acknowledge and leverage them for an evolution toward desirable traits rather than a revolution.

  3. Choose Your “Battles”
    You cannot change attitudes, beliefs, processes, and behaviors overnight. Rather, you need to be selective and patient. Identify which critical few cultural shifts would make the most difference most quickly.

    First, poll your workforce and assess your current culture to know where you truly stand – not how you think you are doing. Next, engage the senior leadership team to agree upon what culture is needed to best execute your strategic priorities across ten research backed dimensions of an aligned culture. Finally, actively involve your managers, key influencers, and frontline employees to make the necessary shifts.

  4. Use a Variety of Tools to Effect Change
    Certainly formal processes need to be in place that encourage the new ways of thinking and working. But also use the power of informal tools and team norms that appeal to the more emotional side of behavioral change.

    IT and reward systems that support the change are necessary of course; however, they are far more powerful when paired with good coaching, peer interactions, and meetings where the positive behaviors are recognized and appreciated.

  5. Do not Forget Metrics
    As with any organizational change initiative, it is critical that you monitor ongoing progress. How else would you know if you are moving in the right direction, course correcting when needed, and demonstrating tangible improvement?

The Bottom Line
If you neglect norms of your corporate culture as you undertake a major change initiative, you are asking for trouble. An aligned culture can accelerate and energize change; a misaligned culture can hinder the process and sustainability of the change that you seek.  Are you creating lasting culture change at work?

To learn more about how to align your culture, download the 3 Research-Backed Levels of Culture to Get Aligned

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