Booz have a very good article on the 5 principals necessary ‘to achieve higher performance, better customer focus, and a more coherent and ethical stance’. Heavy stuff!
They claim that the key is to embrace the benefits that the existing culture has bought the company, by recognising how it’s got the company to where it is today. This changes a top-down transformation programme into an inclusive journey that the entire company can buy into.
One of the most important points they make is to identify a key group of leaders from across the company – people who are respected, well connected and have a voice. By ‘hearing and appreciating’ what these people have to say, they will act as evangelists for the proposed changes.
The five principals are:
Match strategy and change.
A strategy’s effectiveness depends on cultural alignment. So the most basic question to ask (and explain to people) is, “Why do we want to change our culture?“.
Focus on a few critical shifts in behaviour.
Booz suggest asking the leadership groups “If we had the kind of culture we aspire to, in pursuit of the strategy we have chosen, what kinds of new behaviours would be in common? And what ingrained behaviours would be gone?”
This one is a bit tricky though – it requires people to recognise that there is actually a problem that they’re trying to solve.
Booz suggests focusing on small behaviours, as long as they are widely recognised and likely to be emulated.
Honour the strengths of your existing culture.
As mentioned earlier, Booz suggest “acknowledging the existing culture’s assets will also make major change feel less like a top-down imposition and more like a shared evolution“.
Integrate formal and informal interventions.
Informal interventions are in my opinion the most useful. Booz mention “networking, communities of interest, ad hoc conversations, and peer interactions”, but it’s also as simple as after work drinks on Friday.
Measure and monitor cultural evolution.
These are basically KPIs. It’s entirely true that what gets measured, gets done, so pick some key performance indicators for the change programme and keep an eye on them.
The last point in the article is probably the most useful. “Cultural intervention as the first resort”. By leaving it as a last available option will only disengage people.
By identifying some key people in the company, turning them into evangelists for change by listening to their ideas and thoughts, and by taking the existing culture and using it as an asset, cultural change can be a shared journey.