Leveraging Culture to Drive Change in Organisations

Change happens. 

Driving change in an organization requires many tools and culture is one. Culture is generally defined as “the way we do things around here”.  Authors, Katenbach,Oelschlegel and Thomas say culture is developed through mind sets, recurring behaviours and symbolic artifacts (https://www.strategy-business.com/feature/10-Principles-of-Organizational-Culture).

Culture is really the heart of the organization. This metaphor connotes the image of a pulse – the very essence of life. That is what culture is: the lifeblood of the organization where purpose lives.

The drivers of change in organizations flow from many different sources including regulation changes, technological improvements, market conditions, and scaling efforts. These changes introduce new variables into the system and, as Systems Theory tells us, a system seeks to maintain homeostasis. The system rejects these new inputs and seeks to correct the upset by returning to its former state.

Culture is a tool for bringing people through the change. Culture serves to reinforce the purpose of the company through the adoption of specific mind sets and recurring behaviours necessary for the company to achieve its strategic goals and desired business outcomes. Tactile signposts along the way serve to reinforce what employers want employees to think, feel and believe. 

For a change manager, the first step is to raise awareness and desire for the change first with leaders, then with employees. Leadership sets the frame for the change in determining the mindset they want their people to develop. However, the most important factor to real change is behaviour. The saying goes “change behaviours and mind set follows”. Change managers work with leaders to identify how their behaviours create the mindset and what recurring behaviours are necessary to achieve the strategic goals.  

Culture embodies the organization’s purpose and creates the emotional responses in how and what employees think, feel and believe at work.  Working with leaders to develop a culture that is aligned with the strategic goals of the organization raises an awareness and desire for change. Understanding the important role culture plays in business outcomes incentivizes leaders to examine their role in creating the right  cultural frame for employees.

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