Culture change is what is on almost every Leader’s mind when you ask them about what is the most important thing to improve. It’s understandable, the organizational culture drives everything; how we work, make decisions, collaborate, create and even our level of loyalty and commitment. No wonder it is on their mind.
Also, when you discuss strategies on how to make culture change take place Leadership is already in full agreement on the strategic intent and tactical applications required. Where things fall short is in the execution. Leaders will support culture change, but making the necessary adjustments and changes to “their” personal behaviors and work environment are sometimes not obvious. They really do not understand their role in “leading” the culture change, but want to see it happen.
The most successful culture changes are always those that are led by the Leadership team and their direct reports themselves — leading the way by demonstrating what to do and how to do it. Here are four key ways to make culture change happen:
- Determine and demonstrate the corporate “values” to the organization, and stick to them! This should be at the forefront of your thinking and every decision you make. If you have determined that customer focus is a more important value than cost, then people will be watching what happens when you are faced with a cost over customer decision. Will you be willing to sacrifice your customers’ satisfaction by reducing a service option to reduce operational costs. Or would the better choice be to retain the option, and their satisfaction, by finding a way to offer it within the existing cost structure.
- Continually “bang the drum,” communicate, communicate, communicate! Just writing something down and sticking it on the wall isn’t communicating. It is a form of support and reference, but not communicating. Communication is conducted by words and the daily actions that support those words by demonstrating a different behavior to the organization. If you say a culture of Safety is of top importance than every meeting you conduct should start with a safety briefing and some example, albeit small of what someone has done to make your environment safe. Demonstrate.
- Collaborate with others on the best way to do it! Although the idea of a culture change is born in the Executive suite, the execution is conducted from the top down throughout the organization with employee involvement. Once you have established the direction you want to move in, Leaders need to communicate and demonstrate it in their actions and involve their staff in determining how that translates into “day to day operational activities”. If developing your customers into cheerleaders (promoters) for your business is an important value, then utilize the operational areas to develop ideas and give them the authority to implement changes that will demonstrate to the customer how much you care. For example, some healthcare organizations have understood how important customer impact is to admissions and discharge-leading healthcare providers have streamlined these processes so they are efficient and predictable from the patient’s perspective. The streamlining came from using the collective power of their caregivers (staff) to make the necessary changes to those processes.
- Reward and recognize the right behaviors to support the culture change! Many time we see organizations that say “the staff just doesn’t get it, we are trying to change the way to think about problems and get them to be more proactive in solving them, but nothing is any different”. Remember, there are some basic things that people need to react; one key thing is “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me). This may seem fairly mercenary at first, but if you don’t reward and recognize the right behaviors, then people will not know that it is really important to the organization. They are always looking for a sign that this is correct. Lunches, meeting with an executive, certificates, announcements of their actions, pins, etc. are all small ways to show recognition.
Culture change is a difficult thing to corral, however once a leader starts to understand the level of personal involvement required, the importance of “walking the talk” and the day to day discipline of focusing on the goal of culture change first and foremost, will things start to change. Using some of the ideas above, you will help leaders to execute the change in behaviors required to make an impact and improve your chances of success.
Author: Peter Robustelli
Peter J. Robustelli is Executive Vice President, Client Experience of Juran. Mr. Robustelli possesses over 25 years of diverse experience as a Key Executive in Process and Business Improvement, Consulting, Project Management, Client Management and Business Development. He is an effective, seasoned, hands-on executive who solves business problems and improves operating performance and profitability by integrating organizations, driving process improvement through statistical variation control, and restructuring organizations.
Mr. Robustelli’s primary areas of experience are Executive Leadership, Engagement Management, Change Management, Six Sigma, Lean, Business Process Management, Business Development, Evaluation and Assessment and Service Operations Management. His expertise crosses various industries, including, manufacturing, utilities, government services and transactional settings.