The reason many business executives continue to embark on this journey in the face of a one-in-four chance of success is that in an increasingly commoditised environment, customer experience and a well-defined customer value proposition is widely recognised as the key differentiator.
How leaders and staff behave (i.e. organisational culture), has an undeniably large impact on delivering a positively memorable customer experience and delivering against the defined customer value proposition. As such, culture transformation continues to command significant attention in boardrooms across the world.
In our 16 years of specialising in the field of people development and organisational culture transformation, we’ve learnt 16 key lessons at Grow Consulting. Here they are.
1. The process requires active sponsorship right from the top.
Culture transformation is not the kind of project that can be outsourced to an organisational development consultant or delegated to the human resources director to implement, with bi-weekly status updates in an executive or steering committee meeting.
Culture transformation requires energy and commitment over and above the day-to-day operational responsibilities of the business. If the process is not driven right from the top, it will slip down the priority list.
2. Strategic intent
The required culture needs to be defined in the context of the strategic intent of the business. Culture transformation can only exist with clearly defined strategic intent shared by the entire leadership team.
Driving culture transformation that does not have clear strategic direction will at worst create or exacerbate confusion across the entire business and at best end up as some nicely designed posters with little impact on a cultural shift.
3. The bigger picture
Leaders need to approach the process with ‘big minds’, taking a perspective of what the broader organisation requires, rather than just a functional view. In the case of culture transformation, senior leaders need to elevate their thinking and focus beyond their realities to fulfil their roles as organisational leaders.
Debates and decisions need to be underpinned by what is best for the organisation in its transformation journey, not what the individual leaders’ specific functional or operational priorities dictate.
4. Leaders must change
If leaders do not change, the culture will not change. Each leader needs to complete his or her own journey, which may include the ‘unlearning’ of behaviours. Effective culture transformation requires leadership transformation.
Every leader needs to change, own the process and drive it in an active and engaged manner.
A leader improving what he/she already does as a leader is not good enough – not because it’s wrong – but because it is inadequate. If leaders do not change, the culture will not change.
5. Cascading strategy
You can cascade strategy (what we need to do around here) through top down channels, but require strong bottom up involvement to co-define culture (how we need to do things around here).
Although leadership teams need to set strategic direction and actively drive change and renewal in the business by strongly setting direction, there is a risk in assuming the same directive alignment and communication mechanisms will be as effective in a culture transformation journey. Even though senior leadership may opt for defining and communicating the required culture, sustainability in culture transformation is greatly enhanced by allowing staff the opportunity to co-create the desired culture.
6. Leadership alignment within the top team is critical.
The culture journey is a challenging endeavour that does not need the added complexity of leaders pulling in different directions. It’s not an easy process and requires a highly committed and aligned senior leadership team to have any shot at success.
7. Rigorously understand the current reality and plan comprehensively.
For culture transformation scenarios, a detailed analysis of the current reality enables organisations to identify what initiatives will be required to overcome any obstacles and what organisational strengths can be leveraged to facilitate this.
These initiatives must form part of an integrated culture transformation plan with key deliverables and critical time lines with effective project management.
8. Reality for a leader
Leaders need to make themselves vulnerable and acknowledge both the good and the bad of the current reality. Facing the current reality and admitting your contributing role to both the good and the bad by means of a structured assessment/survey of the existing climate and culture is critically important for leadership.
This not only ensures a solid change imperative as a basis for the transformation, but also starts the process of re-establishing leadership trust and credibility, which often gets compromised in a less than optimal culture.
9. Ownership and accountability
Ownership and accountability for the success of the process needs to be instilled at all levels in the business (not only at the top). In the context of leaders acknowledging the current reality, it’s easy for staff to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of top leadership and adopt a wait and see approach.
This can be debilitating to the culture transformation journey. As such, effort and energy needs to be focused on getting staff to play an active part in realising the desired result (i.e. what can you do at your level to transform the way we do things around here?)
10. The key roles of a leader
Leaders need to play a key role as story-tellers and meaning makers. Leaders need to share the desired culture vision frequently in a simple, memorable format. Our corporate landscapes are cluttered with an inordinate amount of messages from shareholders, marketing departments, sales campaigns, functional priorities, legislative updates etc.
Whether you want to know this or not, your culture transformation ʻstory’ will be competing for ʻairtime’ in your company with all these other initiatives. The simpler the message, the more frequently it is repeated, and the closer the link to all the other company initiatives, the more relevant and top of mind the culture journey will be.
11. A transformation process cannot be managed by executing a recipe.
Driving transformation is as much an unfolding art as a science. Leaders need to keep their finger on the pulse and adjust as necessary.
No matter how well you plan, any change process is ʻmessy’ – especially a process that is focused on sustainably shifting behaviour.
It can never be a linear process where the entire journey, with key successes, potential challenges and pitfalls, is clear from the onset. As such, structured feedback loops need to be built into the process to enable you to have a constant view of where the organisation is in its transition. This enables you to take corrective action as and when required.
12. People need to be willing and able to make the transition.
It’s important to build commitment and the skill associated with the desired behaviour. Sustainable behaviour shift is both a head and a heart game. As an example, we all know what ʻhealthy living’ looks like, but often find ourselves making the wrong decisions when faced with the choice between a slice of chocolate cake or fruit salad for dessert.
It’s important to structure your transformation process in such a way that you not only target the rational reasons why you need to shift the culture (i.e. how it will support the strategy and make you more competitive), but also have a defined work stream targeting the development of skills, attitudes and behaviours required at each tier of the business.
13. Desired cultured creates a desired behaviour
Ensure that organisational systems and processes are aligned with the desired culture to ensure entrenchment of the desired behaviours. Even though organisational systems and processes on their own are not key levers to any sustained organisational culture transformation process (as can be evidenced in many of the 75% of failed culture projects that had this as their main focus), their importance cannot be downplayed.
To effectively entrench culture you need to ensure that processes like recruitment, performance management, talent management and development, communication, remuneration and reward are fully aligned and supportive of required behaviour shifts.
14. Journey leadership and management
Journey leadership and management need to focus on driving results while containing the concomitant anxiety and uncertainty that goes hand in hand with that. It’s a balance between no compromise on results and caring for the people.
Being ʻhard’ on what behaviours are required together with being ʻsoft’ on supporting the people to achieve these shifts is one of the key polarities that needs to be managed during the process. While executive leadership needs to provide the necessary opportunity for senior leadership, middle management and staff to ʻbe part’ of the journey, they also need to hold people accountable, manage performance and apply consequence management should the desired shifts not materialise.
15. Creating a future culture
Be aware that how you manage the culture change process sends more powerful messages about what the future culture will be than what is said. Even though ’the way we do things around here’ is an oversimplified description of culture, it’s very useful to point to the fact that people will take their cue more from what you do as a leader rather than what you say.
If you want to transform your culture to a more empowering client centric culture, it would be advisable to structure your transformation process in such a way that your staff be heard and feel that they are truly able to impact the final outcome.
16. Keep in mind that the culture will change and develop over time.
If the process is not consciously steered, it may drift in an undesirable direction. It would be naïve to think that culture exists and develops in a vacuum.
Organisational culture is developed and shaped by a number of variables, including socio-political environment, economic conditions, technology advancements, competitor pressures, business process and operating model changes, changes in leadership and physical office environment, etc.
All of the above – and many more external and internal forces of change – continually impact your culture and as with any behavioural contract, organisational culture requires constant assessment, review and redefinition to remain relevant and appropriate.
How Your Company Can Become A Champion Of Change
Take control of the change management see-saw to achieve your business objectives
Constant change is a reality for business owners, but today that change is happening faster than ever before, both within businesses and across industries. Transformation has therefore become a strategic non-negotiable as companies must adapt to remain relevant in this era of unprecedented disruption.
Unfortunately people – your staff – are hardwired to resist change. It’s predominantly a subconscious psychological response to a fear of the unknown and the uncertainty this creates.
This is a major reason why few organisational transformation initiatives succeed (just 30-38% according to a commonly-cited McKinsey study) in achieving all of the project’s objectives.
However, there is an effective process that business owners can follow to successfully implement, manage and champion change to more effectively adapt to a modern marketplace that’s in constant flux.
Step 1: Define the objective
A business owner must first clearly define the new business objective that necessitates the change. We call this the Victory Condition.
It’s a company’s ultimate measure of success, and establishing this objective is vital to ensure that everyone in the business knows where the company is headed, particularly as this information will define their Path to Victory.
Step 2: Create buy-in
However, forcing to staff to follow this path without their input and consultation – important processes that make their buy-in more likely – can amplify their resistance to change.
Without buy-in there’s no shared common interest in the process or the objective. That’s when resistance usually manifests as inertia, petty meddling and sometimes, outright destructive behaviour.
Step 3: Tip the see-saw in your favour
The catalyst for disruption during periods of organisational change is usually negativity. Even the slightest negativity can tip the balance of the change management see-saw against business owners and company leadership when trying to implement and manage a transformation strategy.
That’s because most staff tend to sit in the middle, waiting to see which way the see-saw will tilt.
The fact that most people are tuned to gravitate towards negativity means the balance of forces can easily swing in that direction when there’s a groundswell of negativity within an organisation.
To tip the see-saw in your favour it’s crucial to identify and root out the ‘bad eggs’, as they’re the ones who draw staff to the negative side. It’s also vital to ensure that the company identifies and works to retain its good people. With this combined approach, leadership will greatly enhance the probability of success.
Step 4: Identify and create champions
The final step is to create champions for growth and impact within your company. This is the other reason why you need to retain your best staff. These are the people who will help to shift others within the organisation to the right side of the change management see-saw.
To do so requires empowering these champions to become catalysts for positivity, by letting them lead through demonstrable action according to the business’s Victory Condition.
However, to ensure that this is the kind of action that benefits the business, your champions need to clearly understand the objective, and the potential paths the business can take to get there.
Empowered with this information, it’s then up to them to communicate and share the Victory Condition with the rest of the staff, and ensure they understand it. This creates organisational cohesion and ensures that everyone is working towards the realisation of the Victory Condition.
Business Leadership – Learn How To Embrace Change
Embrace change! It is the new intelligence!
“Embracing change is the new intelligence”
Initially your IQ was considered in most circles to be a key determining factor of your success as a business leader. Deeper research into the realm of emotional intelligence has revealed its potential as a catalyst to build meaningful and results driven relationships that can change the world.
Yet another highly interesting topic of conversation has been echoing in lecture halls, boardrooms, and the minds of entrepreneurs. Scary to some, very exciting to others, changes within an industry or business environment are always just around the corner. To get to intelligent, pragmatic and very useful answers it must begin with intelligent and practically orientated questions:
“Just how important has your ability to adapt to useful change, forced changes in the market place or industry, as a core leadership skill become??
The author shares the opinion of numerous modern thought leaders that identifying useful change, embracing it, and incorporating it as a part of the company culture has become a core skill. A skill that every entrepreneur and leader must possess or learn that is if they have a strong desire to build a sustainable ,thriving company and leave a lasting legacy. Your ability to embrace useful change is at the very least more important than your IQ and equal to if not more important than your level of emotional intelligence.
A successful change journey starts with a healthy view of useful change and the acceptance of as Robin Sharma says:
“Change is always hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end…”
Understanding the real purpose of a change intervention and how it aligns with and serves the vision and goals of your company is the launching pad for a successful change intervention. I must point out at this stage that a wise performance coach once shared that:
‘The success of any transformation is highly dependent upon the internal state of the person or people driving the change journey’.
To clarify and simplify the above it can be applied to our daily lives. Our attempts to lose weight are often stymied by our need for the immediate gratification of tasty food and a full stomach and we fall in love with the warm feeling/s associated with that.
Losing weight poses another challenge to us. It pushes us outside that space of comfort that we love so much. The journey asks more from us. The willingness to sacrifice the known for the unknown is also a requirement that proves to be a bridge too far to cross for most.
If however you fully understood literally all the benefits of a weight loss journey and especially how it aligns with your life’s’ purpose and goals your willpower will be enhanced as well as your general attitude.
Lets’ say as an example that you are an entrepreneur whose purpose is to positively transform the lives of your clients through the use of your product. By losing weight in a healthy way you will not only look better, feel better, you will also have the energy to work harder at your goals of for example selling more products.
You will have more energy and willpower to coach and empower your team. Therefore weight loss and fitness considered within a positive paradigm that is not only aligned with your personal health goals but also with your purpose as an entrepreneur will likely give you the necessary perseverance to succeed that is if you sincerely believe in your purpose and considered all benefits of the change intervention.
I recently facilitated a change intervention at a factory as a consultant. Initially most involved thought they were just going to receive orders to produce and sell more of a certain product. Instead their own purpose was revealed to them and how producing and selling more of the product could enhance their own skill set, performance, and self-development.
More importantly they realised that this change intervention could potentially enhance the income and experience of their customers vastly. According to the feedback received they felt more motivated and empowered than ever, and are achieving way more sales of the product range that they are focussing on than ever before.
When a change intervention is truly embraced by your team because they truly feel and understand the purpose of it and are excited about how it will positively affect their collective future and their internal state mostly positive powerful and lasting results can be achieved.
Another ‘insurance policy’ that goes a long way in ensuring sustainable success in business within a challenging and changing environment is to establish a learning culture within your business. Strongly encourage and create circumstances ideal to practical learning which also embraces the opportunity to learn from failures and apply solution driven thinking.
When your team members pursue learning and positive experimentation they will be more open minded and confident when useful change interventions can be exploited for further self-development and company growth. Embrace change! It is the new intelligence!
The Future Of Work: Creating Excellent Culture To Be An Employer Of Choice
Millennials already make up a significant percentage of the “new workforce”. They seem to flourish in work environments where the experience includes diversity, transparency, and collaborative work cultures, with flexible working conditions and work that contributes to positive social influence.
Why it is important to be “an employer of choice”
An employer of choice is not only in business for profit, but also to ensure that their people develop the potential, as humans. This is not only done for the good of the business, but to develop individuals who are responsible stewards working towards a common purpose of healing or refreshing fellow humans and the earth (fauna and flora).
If you are in business and you have people working with or for you, you want to attract a mix of employees. Some will have the best industry skills for example, and others will have exceptional leadership capacity. More importantly, you would want, regardless of skills, people with great positive attitudes.
Attracting employees with top-notch skills, outstanding character and great attitudes would require that you design a business with excellent character and culture.
Vision Led and Values Drive Employer Value Propositions (EVP)
The line “vision led, values driven” is well known. To be a successful business you have to have a meaningful and resilient vision to inspire your team, driven by robust and powerful values.
It is crucial to communicate well with employees “why” and “what” they are part of achieving (i.e. vision). Vision needs to be externally focused; describing the desired impact to be made on the world, or how the business aspires to create a better society.
Having a vision to buy into and the values that support it, forms part of the Employer Value Proposition (EVP) – this is what employees are offered in return for their hours of work.
Research shows five elements that employers need to focus on when defining their EVP: Rewards, opportunity, organisation, people, and the work itself.
Creating an Employer of Choice culture
In short, listen, then listen a bit more, and then act accordingly.
Start by serving your clients and your people, clearly understanding their needs, wants and desires. Then build a vision to fulfill the needs and always do business responsibly.
There are various ways to determine the needs of your clients and your employees. We focus on the needs of employees and have designed a culture assessment to understand the internal culture. It also measures some external elements, like customer service from an internal perspective.
We focus on elements relating to how we serve, bring harmony and patience, experience joy, being good and kind, building trust and having self-control. Once you understand how your culture looks, then you can define how you want it to look or what you believe it should be in terms of values.
Create an excellent culture that adds substance to your EVP, to be an Employer of Choice.