Stop Worrying So Much about Buy-In
Solving the Wrong Problem
Think about the typical corporate culture initiative. A select group works for months to wordsmith a new set of values or vision statement. Maybe there’s a series of town hall meetings with senior leaders. Posters go up saying things like “We collaborate to bring innovative solutions to our customers” and “We value our people”. The corporate communications team does a really nice job. But how much is truly different a year later?
In our rush to “roll-out” the new culture, we often over-focus on the wrong thing: getting buy-in. If your culture change is stalling, it’s far more likely because:
1. There is an existing culture in place which continues to drive the behavior of people in the organization. And it often drives them to do the exact opposite of what we say we value.
2. People aren’t able to “operationalize” the new culture. That is to say they can’t translate it into specific new and different behaviors, when it really counts.
A Different Approach
If we’re going to be successful changing organizational culture, we have to examine and dismantle the old culture that is blocking change. Translating a new culture into action generally needs to start with identifying the things to stop doing. We need to help employees “unfreeze” old habits.
Once we’ve identified what not to do, then we need to actively support leaders in doing things differently. They may not know what it looks like to live into the new culture, after all it’s not what’s been modeled for them in the past. We may have literally trained them to do things the old way.
How We Can Help