Ground Rule: Calibrate Corporate Culture

Changing corporate culture is heavy-duty stuff.  This isn’t the sort of challenge you take on simply because it sounds good. Or because it’s the “in thing” to do these days. You do it because you have to in a desperate attempt to survive. Or if you’re lucky—and smart enough—you do it before you have to, knowing you must if the organization is going to maintain a competitive edge in today’s rapidly changing marketplace.

Most organizations don’t have the foresight to change their culture before the world forces it on them. Some start, then don’t have enough determination to see the effort through. Others keep tinkering with their culture, but the world of change outruns them. These companies lose control over their destiny. Some that recognize the need to change deceive themselves, thinking they can achieve a cultural transformation without pain and chaos. But it just doesn’t work that way. Overhauling the culture is an agonizing process. Still, if you carry out culture change correctly, the payoff is worth the price of admission. It’s also a lot less painful than having the marketplace slowly drive a stake into the heart of the organization.

Follow the guidelines is the below articles, and you can achieve dramatic culture shifts in record time. It’s the best way to protect the organization’s future.

Tools and Articles:
Don't Discount The Part You Play

There’s this notion in complexity theory called “the butterfly effect.” It’s about how complex adaptive systems—like companies, weather patterns, stock markets, etc.—can be powerfully affected by very small, remote influences.

Edward Lorenz, a meteorologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote about it in a paper which raised the question, “Does the flutter of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?”

His point: Small acts can have huge...

Don't Be Surprised When Culture Counterattacks

As far as corporate culture is concerned, “change” is the dirtiest word in the dictionary.

It’s culture’s nature to believe deeply in itself, and it shows absolutely no sense of humor when people attempt to redesign it.

In Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, Harrison and Huntington discuss how difficult it is to find something that “can substitute for disaster in stimulating cultural change.”

You’re dealing with a self-righteous, heavy-handed...

Create A Culture Where People Are Rewarded For Disturbing The Peace

Change, by its very nature, is destructive. It gets messy. It causes confusion. That bothers a lot of people. They warn against change, or argue for taking it slow and easy so nothing gets broken. If they get their way, the organization has to tiptoe around, try to be neat, and not hurt anybody or upset people. Eventually, such a culture gets the organization in big trouble.

A culture that’s unwilling to break things can’t move fast. If it tries to salvage everything, it ends up...

The Challenge Of Culture Change In M&A

The biggest obstacle to successful merger integration is conflicting corporate cultures. The disturbing statistics of merger/acquisition failures document the problem: Between one-half and three-fourths of the deals that are done never measure up to original expectations.

The companies find they can’t live together. Sometimes they stay together, only to fight and feel miserable because their organizational values and lifestyles are incompatible.


Bring In A New Breed

Turnover has its virtues. Used correctly, it gives you a chance to reconstitute the workforce. The simplest, most straightforward solution to transforming the corporate culture is to switch out people. Nothing else has the potential to so quickly change the chemistry of the culture.

Take downsizing. Do it in a discerning manner, and you can reduce the size of the resistance forces. Second, you make room for replacements that have the characteristics needed to establish the new culture...

Trying Harder Can Create A Culture If Desperation

People commonly respond to the stress of change by putting out more effort. The greater the change (that is, the bigger the adjustment they need to make) the harder they try. But they stick with the same old habits. They bet the future on “more of the same.” Their heart is in the right place, their intentions are good, but they fail to realize that many solutions of the past don’t fit the problems of the future. In fact, a lot of today’s problems are actually caused by yesterday’s solutions...

You Need People Who Howl At The Moon

Setting out to change the culture is like taking on an army of secret police. You know the enemy is everywhere, ready to crack down on the people who don’t conform. Cold-blooded and forever watchful, culture cannot tolerate the unconventional. The more eccentric or out of the ordinary someone behaves relative to existing cultural standards, the more ruthless the response.

Sometimes the rebuke is mild—a mere slap on the wrist to get the offender’s attention. But sometimes the reprisal...

Loyalty Is A Treacherous Thing In A World Of Rapid Change

Be wary of people who take pride in being “loyal” employees. Loyalty is a treacherous thing in a world of rapid change. You need to examine the object of people’s loyalty. Analyze their actions as well as their motives. Then determine whether this is the kind of “virtue” the organization can afford.

Loyalty to the organization has value, assuming it gets demonstrated in the proper manner. Loyalty to the culture, on the other hand, can present a variety of serious...

When It Comes To Culture Change, Standard Communication Procedures Won't Cut It

You need a tremendous amount of high-quality communication to sustain a culture change. Managers typically underestimate the effort that is required. They rely on the normal communication practices and patterns, failing to consider that those methods were never designed for times like this. Standard communication procedures simply won’t cut it.

Consider the situation at hand. First, people need to hear the logic, the rationale, behind the decision to change the culture. Give them an...