Whenever I consider the pain and toil that goes into every deep, cultural transformation effort I recall the words of Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, "pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." Indeed, transformation work is always challenging. You're asking people to change and to move out of their comfort zones. Resistance, misunderstanding and confusion abound! But, managing through change doesn't have to be an exercise in unbearable misery.
Here are 8 considerations worth bearing in mind when you undertake your organization's next major cultural transformation:
1. Leadership Style: Whatever the prevailing leadership style is within the organization will certainly be called into question. Adjustments must be made that properly align with the future vision and strategic framework of the enterprise. Misalignment leads to misery as staff begin to recognize that they're being asked to change, but, management is not willing or able.
2. Strategic Planning Practices: Regardless of how planning was done in the past, post-transformation direction-setting had better be formal, regular, transparent and communicated. Your staff will expect to be able to comprehend the strategic plan and understand what their role in helping you achieve it.
3. Communication Protocols: Nothing kills transformation quicker than a lack of communication. Whenever there is a communication vacuum, your staff will fill it with some form of "information"--sometimes accurate, but, usually incorrect. Work to put the communication mechanisms in place and use them keep your people informed on both the changes coming and the rationale for making those changes a reality.
4. Brand Proposition: Your brand must be aligned with you culture or your change efforts will fail. For example, consider discount airline carrier, their brand denotes low cost provider and their culture should be all about cost reduction. Trying to establish a rich service delivery will not work for them. The costs that come with delivering industry-leading service would run them out-of-business. Brand, product and service all must match culture and culture must support the delivery of of the brand promise.
5. Technology Integration: Can't overemphasize the importance of supporting cultural change through the proper leverage of technology. Technology is an enabler. Let it enable your transformation by providing your people with the technical tools that they need to succeed.
6. Staff Preparedness: You have to be sure that your people are ready to perform. That said, all of your practices aimed at recruitment, retention, reward and engagement must be aimed at getting the right players in place to knock it out of the park. If your team is not prepared to do what must be done to transform the organization, it simply won't happen.
7. Performance Measurement Alignment: Your measurement programs have to measure the "right" behaviors and reward the "right" outcomes. After all, people do what they're measured on. So, failing to establish a program that perfectly allies with the guiding principles of your transformation is a recipe for failure.
8. Organizational Design: The organization design that you develop must support the culture that you're promoting. Flatter is faster, as bureaucratic layers are replaced by a structural design that is more responsive and decisive. The only caveat, your front-line staff must be properly trained and educated to make the kind of informed decisions that your supervisors and managers would ordinarily make. Invest in your people and they will pay dividends.
In closing, "Yes," there will be pain whenever you take on the hard work of driving cultural change within an organization. But, the suffering is up to you. By considering the 8 tips provided above, I hope that your suffering will be kept at bay, while your change effort runs smoothly and is lastingly effective.
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