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Culture Change?

Sep 14, 2016

Stop Worrying So Much about Buy-In
Culture change is hot again – and for good reason. Many large corporations are in the midst of efforts to transform their businesses and senior executives see culture as a critical lever. Unfortunately, they often go about changing it in ways that blunt their efforts and block real change.

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

At Cambridge Leadership Group, we’ve been helping organizations with this work for over 20 years. We help leaders have open conversations about what need to change in the business, challenge unproductive mindsets, and build powerful new behaviors that drive change and performance. Our approach is based on research from preeminent scholars in leadership, OD, and adult learning – alongside our practical experience translating those ideas into impact with over 25,000 leaders across cultures. Rather than simply providing information about leadership, our high-touch facilitation and coaching help leaders make real changes in their mindset and behavior in real-time. Our solutions are designed to help organizations tackle real business challenges and to enable individual leaders to achieve breakthroughs in their own performance and the performance of their teams.