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Change Management

16 Lessons in Transforming Culture

Research shows that only 25% of organisational culture transformation projects deliver the expected results and business benefits. Make sure you’re one of them.

Michael Greyling




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.

Michael Greyling is the director and co-founder of Grow Consulting, which delivers measurable people development to blue-chip clients through the design and delivery of customised capacity building solutions.

Change Management

6 Timeless Strategies That Drive Successful Entrepreneurship

Adhere to these key principles to build a high-growth company amid changing circumstances.

Timothy Sykes




In today’s ever changing business climate, an entrepreneur can easily become overwhelmed. It’s vital, though, to stay focused on your goals for the company.

Even with a firm strategy in place, every entrepreneur should do these six things to clear a path to success:

1Study the competition

As an entrepreneur, you need to know who your competitors are. You also should understand the rival product or service that is being offering.

This knowledge will help you better market your product or service to stand out, perhaps even using your competition’s weaknesses to your advantage.

2Conserve cash no matter how good business is

Frankly put, live as cheaply as possible.

Entrepreneurs should be as conservative with their money as possible to be able to deal with any rough patch that arises. Conserving several months’ worth of operating expenses in the bank will help you survive most unforeseen circumstances.

3Research new products and services

Understand emerging products or services on the horizon that could improve your company’s operations.

Do your homework.

  • Are you taking advantage of all technology has to offer?
  • Is there an app that could help you manage your time more efficiently or a service that lets you delegate ordinary tasks to free up more time for priority projects?

4Don’t tackle huge markets at first

huge markets

Avoid expanding into large markets in the initial stages. Thinking “if we can capture just 1 percent of China” could turn into a mistake. Niche marketing can be extremely cost effective if you keep three things in mind: Meet the market’s unique needs by offering something new and compelling. Speak the market’s language and understand its hot buttons.

Your language should be in synch with that niche even for the minor aspects of a marketing campaign like the company’s slogan.

5Listen to customer feedback and adapt

Salespeople know the adage “always be closing,” referred to by the acronym ABC. Entrepreneurs have an acronym, too: Always be adapting, or ABA.

But entrepreneurs can evolve their business only when they’re listening to customer feedback. It may not mean much if one customer doesn’t like your product but if this is true for many of them and they’re requesting another feature, listen and be ready to adapt.

Whether you’re adapting your marketing plan, simplifying a product or responding to new trends, pay attention to customer feedback. Be all ears.

6Respond to change

In business change is inevitable and those capable of responding are flexible and versatile.

An entrepreneur must be prepared to accept change and adapt business operations accordingly. Be flexible. If a shift in your product or service is warranted, don’t be left behind. Realize from the start that where you are is likely not to be where you’ll end up. A lack of adaptability can result in loss in customers, profits and even business failure.

As an entrepreneur, understand that the world is evolving rapidly. Even a company founded a year ago could change the world today.

Yes, the world customarily commends big players like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. Yet there’s room for everyone in the game. Entrepreneurship in emerging markets could very well be a major factor in the return of a hearty global economy. Why couldn’t you be a part of that change?

This article was originally posted here on

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Change Management

Yellowwood Future Architects Are Helping Their Clients Understand The New Future

The world is changing. And young, digitally-savvy consumers are becoming an increasingly large and powerful segment. So how should your business adapt to the changing face of the consumer landscape?

GG van Rooyen




Vital Stats

  • Player: David Blyth
  • Position: CEO
  • Company: Yellowwood Future Architects
  • Established: 1997
  • What they do: Yellowwood is a South African marketing strategy consultancy. It helps clients find top line growth for their businesses by offering strategic focus and insight into customers.
  • Visit:

Yellowwood Future Architects specialises in helping its clients understand their customers. It is a crucial task, since no organisation can survive long-term if if doesn’t have a deep understanding of the people who buy its products and services.

But even companies that pay great attention to their customers can find themselves struggling to understand the mindset of the modern consumer. Why is that? Well, the consumer landscape is changing drastically, especially in Africa.

“Globally, the youth market is the largest the world has ever seen, and Africa has the majority of these young people. According to the latest census figures, South Africa’s 15 to 34-year-olds total in the region of 19,5 million, or 37,6% of the total population of 51,7 million. By comparison, South Africa’s Generation Xers (the 37 to 56-year-olds) number under 12 million. With direct youth spend in South Africa sitting at a hefty R130 billion per annum, marketers need to sit up and take notice of the youth market. “They are not just ‘the future’ as we are often told — they are ’the now’,” says Yellowwood CEO David Blyth.

This means that no company can afford to ignore the youth market. As Blyth says, they are having a profound effect on the economy already, and this influence will only grow as they age.

Related: Turnover Doubling Every 10 Months – Honeybee Has Set Its Sights To Scale Speedily

So what does this new generation look like? What are their wants and needs? And what do they expect of the brands and companies they interact with?

They want relevant marketing

The days when consumers could be seen as passive receivers of marketing materials are over. Young consumers expect the right information at the right time. They don’t want to be spammed with information that’s not relevant to them, but they do want information to be instantly available when necessary.

They have a lot of disposable income

Young consumers have a surprising amount of disposable income. How so? They live with their parents longer than previous generations did, and they often rent instead of buy.

“We are seeing a shift in how young people spend their money. Many of them aren’t paying a bond or monthly car instalments, which gives them more disposable income,” says Blyth. “Depending on your industry, this can have a profound effect on your business.”

They demand authenticity

“Don’t try to be cool,” says Blyth. “Young consumers want brands to be real — they don’t want to be fed an inauthentic marketing line.” According to Blyth, they want to be approached on equal terms.

They want value

“Brands are important,” says Blyth. “But we are also seeing that young consumers want value. Brand alone isn’t enough. There is simply too much choice out there these days. Combine this with an uncertain economy, and a unique value offering becomes critical.”

Related: How Flick Visual Foundry Found High Rewards By Taking A Narrow View

They want dialogue

As mentioned earlier, young consumers aren’t willing to be the passive recipients of marketing material. These days, engagement is key.

“Thanks to platforms like Twitter and Instagram, consumers have a loud voice,” says Blyth. “And they aren’t afraid to use it. They will let you know if they’re unhappy, and they will expect you to respond. They want two-way conversation.”

They are socially conscious

“Young consumers are very socially conscious. They care about social issues and the environment. So it goes without saying that they expect companies and brands to care about these things as well,” says Blyth.
They are complicated

Perhaps the defining characteristic of the youth market is its inability (and unwillingness) to be pigeonholed and broadly defined. Young consumers are incredibly complex in their wants, needs and demands.

They can appear self-centred and very focused on instant gratification, but research has also shown that they are incredibly concerned about the future, and very conscious of social and environmental issues.

What this means is that the days of approaching marketing in a linear way are over. The world is becoming more complex, consumers are becoming more demanding, and companies have no choice but to keep up.

Related: Business Partners Limited Explain What It Takes To Have The X (Fundable) Factor

Take Note

Never assume that you know your customer. Customer research should be an ongoing activity. The world is changing quickly, and companies need to keep up. They need to evolve at the same speed as their consumers.

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Change Management

Developing Your Business’s Ethics Policy

It’s not enough to have a vision statement and values; you have to integrate them into your company’s culture.





Definition: Business ethics is the study of proper business policies and practices regarding potentially controversial issues, such as corporate governance, insider trading, bribery, discrimination, corporate social responsibility and fiduciary responsibilities. Investopedia

In training values and ethics, many “what if” scenarios should be developed so that employees can learn to react to possibilities.

Once you have defined what’s acceptable and what is not, plan how the organisation will respond to employees who do the right thing. For example, if someone makes a business decision that is consistent with organisational ethics, but causes the company to lose business, show that person as a positive example.

Related: The Ethics Coach on How to Maintain the Integrity of Your Brand

Next, examine negative situations. Most lying in organisations isn’t for personal gain but to avoid embarrassing consequences.

If you frequently take success for granted and consistently punish failure, you can count on people changing the numbers to look better than they should, blaming others for their mistakes or hiding errors.

In summary, you should:

  1. Specifically define values and ethics as they relate to suppliers, customers and employees.
  2. Train employees using realistic examples relating to your own business.
  3. Examine how you respond to success and failure. within your organisation.
  4. Reinforce all who make an improvement, not just a select few.

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