Developing a Culture of Change

time for change“There is nothing wrong with change—

if it is headed in the right direction.”

Winston Churchill

Think of the last time you wanted to change something. You know the feeling–whether it was a picture frame hanging crookedly on a wall or a slow-moving line at the DMV–it took every ounce of willpower to keep from jumping in to fix the situation.

Our desire to improve a system or solve a problem is so determined that it may as well be coded into our DNA. We desire to work more efficiently, build a better future, or design a better mousetrap, but when it comes down to it, it’s easier to talk about creating change than to actually do something about it.

This tendency is as true for small companies as it is for global organizations. As a consultant, I see far too many companies invest in innovation, only to toss their new products (or processes) into the bottom drawer because they are “too difficult” to implement. Unfortunately, no matter how diligently a group strategizes, it won’t progress without implementing those changes. Creating change may seem risky, but the true risk is in neglecting to change.

This is why a “culture” of change is so important.

Companies, especially long-standing enterprises, tend to develop strong infrastructural habits as they become more successful. Many times these habits can be beneficial as they provide the stability and accountability needed to get work done on a daily basis. However, no company is immune to changes in technology or the market.

The winds of change may blow outside, but Old Man River flows through the same entrenched channels within the company and resists any attempt to change. This has caused more than a few innovative employees to throw up their hands, either succumbing to the status quo or moving to a company with more entrepreneurial spirit. The resulting loss of talent and potential can be staggering.

For this reason, fresh strategies should be implemented mindfully, understanding that new requirements may need to be enforced and adapted on a daily basis to produce the desired results.  Don’t be afraid to question existing infrastructure and policies so that business can be conducted differently than in the past.

It is vital that cultural change be accompanied by effective communication and an internal marketing campaign. Staff need to see how change benefits the company and improves their own performance, rather than threatening their position and usefulness. Successful change requires vision casting, encouragement, accountability, and teamwork.  Though the change you are seeking will not happen overnight, with the right ingredients and coaching, the change will come.

For many companies, cultural change requires a “performance culture”.  Setting sales goals, providing incentives, tracking progression, and creating profit-share programs provide the motivation employees need to use the new tools.

For others companies, cultural change means investing in technology or other assets to help employees succeed.   For example, if a new system relies heavily on a software or hardware device, employees may need to be trained on how to use it.  Make it easy for your employees to put new strategies into operation by equipping them with the appropriate expertise.

Finally, you may find it helpful to bring in an unbiased set of eyes. Changing organizational culture is not easy, so recruiting interim leadership to help manage may be just what you need to move the company forward.  Outside perspectives provide the objective insight you need to see where the new strategy performs as expected, and where it needs extra help.  Consultants ensure that your company’s culture pursues the desired trajectory without taking the management team, CEO, President, or other leaders away from their already busy jobs.

Have you experienced resistance to change in your company? How did you choose to work through it? Feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email if you’re interested in learning more about developing cultural change.

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