Culture Change Won't Work If It's Invisible
In my previous post, I made the point that culture change is not always a big, dramatic, new program that is announced with much fanfare. In fact, it is mostly made up of fairly ordinary changes to processes inside your organization—changes that are carefully designed to promote and support the new behaviors you need to align your culture with what makes you successful.
But there is another related point that I did not mention in that post: In order for the culture change work to be successful, it must be visible. Culture change, by definition, means your people will be required to abandon their previous patterns of behavior and adopt some new ones. And for people to change, they need to understand why. I can’t stress this enough, because with today’s rapid pace of change, I think there is a tendency to skip the “why” part. We assume that it’s obvious, or we told them once so we don’t have to say it again.
But even if people understood the “why” when you announced the new culture change efforts, they eventually will get back into their everyday work, and it’s very easy for them to lose sight of the way the culture is changing and why it is changing. When that happens, there is a natural pull back to the old behaviors and patterns. It’s like you’re driving in two ruts on a dirt the road, and if you are trying to get out of them and lose focus on that task, the steering wheel slips out of your grip and you’ll drop right back in the ruts.
Which is why you need to make sure that all of your culture change efforts are visible to everyone in the organization. This is obviously a challenge for larger organizations, but failing to make your culture change visible can seriously dampen the impact of your change efforts. You don’t necessarily have to share all the details of all your change programs, but it’s critical to provide a story—a narrative that everyone can relate to about why you are making strategic changes to the way you do things in order to create a more exceptional culture.
Organizations with a more mature culture management infrastructure will build in this communications piece to their culture alignment efforts. It’s more work, for sure, but you’ll reap the rewards when your culture change efforts actually succeed.