17th October, 2017
Changing the culture of a business is one of the hardest things to do – and buying into myths about the process can make it so much tougher.
As a concept, ‘culture’ can be held up as the foundation of progressive thinking and innovation within a business – or cop the rap when things go wrong. It’s not easy to nail exactly what culture is, which makes it difficult to measure.
Culture change seems to be the flavour of the day in management, and everybody has their own spin on how to manage it.
But before deciding to launch into a period of change in your business, make sure you’re not buying into any hype.
So what are the myths about culture change?
There are other causes of poor performance and discontent.
While not denying the huge impact culture can have, don’t assume that it’s at the heart of every problem.
Instead, consider alternatives and do your research before launching into culture change.
What if the cause has less to do with your culture and more to do with your processes? Here are just a few examples:
TIP: Analyse the problem before blaming ‘culture’
So let’s say that after analysing the problems in your business, you’ve come to the conclusion that you do need to change the culture.
Never assume that you and your employees are on the same page about this.
Even a culture that outsiders would describe as toxic can be invisible to employees who have adapted to it over time.
Don’t assume that because you see the signs that culture needs to change that your team has seen them too. You may need to persuade them of the need to change.
TIP: Collect evidence.
Some people love change. Others hate it. They may also hold well-founded fears about the unknown future.
Those who resist change, especially if they’re influential in the business, could derail your efforts to change culture before you even begin.
If you don’t take steps to make them feel safe, they will never support the change.
TIP: Address fear.
There’s nothing easy about changing the culture of a business.
Think of it as a journey from one place to another with many different options for routes, directions, start and end points, and modes of transport – all while conducting business as usual.
The culture you have in your business evolved gradually.
It won’t be changing overnight just because you’ve decided it needs to.
TIP: Plan for the long haul.
By falling for any of these myths, you can start destroying a culture you intended to improve.
It’s counter-productive to point the finger at your team’s performance without addressing the underlying problems of processes, resources or skills.
Until you have clear, convincing evidence that the culture in your business needs to improve it will be hard to engage others in the change project.
Even then, success is only likely if you understand the potential challenges and have plans to address them.
Always keep your eyes open and proceed with extreme caution down the culture-change road. Seek expert advice before you start to avoid the predictable detours and delays that lie ahead.