(Concluding remarks in our brief tangent from the three part series on Real Differentiation at Oscar Mayer…)
A recent blog post defined culture1 and identified three of the roles culture serves for a group: identity, differentiation, and preservation. It’s that last aspect, preservation, which becomes the nemesis of change. Culture experts (e.g., Edgar H. Schein from MIT) will tell you culture changes slowly over long periods of time. But most leaders don’t have much time. They need results now. And they need the results to be sustained over time. These three levers form an approach that will help accelerate culture change by requiring new behaviors while also speeding up the realization of business results.
1) Define and share a compelling strategic intent comprised of a grand purpose that stirs the emotions (e.g., win the Superbowl), an aspirational goal based on objective, realistic analysis (e.g., grow by xx%), and an urgent call to action that outlines next steps.
2) Redesign the work and the organization by defining the principles of the future state, designing the simplest processes required to produce the desired outputs, and creating new organizational structures with roles, responsibilities and accountability for results.
3) Roll out and optimize the new organization just like you would commercialize a new product by resourcing and debugging the start-up, planning and executing a scale-up, and then standardizing the work, structures and performance of the new organization.
A compelling strategic intent that appeals to the heart, head and hands will help people consider movement from the status quo. Redesigning the work and the organization not only enables new approaches but requires new behaviors and forms new bonds. Optimizing the new organization will help calibrate and embed key elements of the new culture which is forming over time.
Here’s a bold assertion: Changing a culture is simple but it isn’t easy. The “preservation” role of existing cultures often derails change efforts and maintains the status quo. These three levers form an approach that will help accelerate culture change by requiring new behaviors while also speeding up the realization of the business results being sought; results that will be sustained over time.
1. Culture is the working patterns of thinking and behaving that groups develop over time through shared experience.