You may have read my 3 part-series on Culture By Design. The final installment was published just last week. The response was so overwhelming that I thought it may be worth offering one more piece on the subject of corporate culture.

With that, let's explore what happens to an organization that fails at its cultural transformation work because it chose not to craft its Culture by Design. I hope that you'll conclude, as I have, that corporate culture is no laughing matter and that it must be done fashioned in a very deliberate way to avoid these problematic consequences.

Here are the symptoms of a failed culture transformation effort:

  • Destabilized Execution: The work needed to drive cultural transformation is time-consuming and intense. In the short-term, in fact, the effort can interrupt the work setting as key players are asked to participate. In the long-run, though, making poor choices in where to make needed changes or misfires in how those changes are implemented can serve to severely disrupt the way work is done well into the future.
  • Squandered Resources: Similarly, the time, people and money spent on an ill-conceived or poorly executed cultural transformation initiatives are resources that you can't get back - that waste can be tallied in, both, their true costs as well as missed opportunities (where those squandered resources could have been put to better use).
  • Lowered Morale: If the result of the initiative bares no fruit, employee morale will, most certainly, take a hit - lots of build-up and no follow-through will be the prevailing opinion among the rank and file.

What are the reasons for culture transformation failure? There are many. Here are three of the most common ones as seen among recent clients:

1. Change Fatigue: A topic that I've written about in the past, change fatigue is a very real phenomenon experienced by organizations that have been unable to deliver results from past change initiatives. Consequently, this failure has led to confusion and emotional overload among staff. Thus, any cultural change effort falters because of institutional burn-out.

2. Little to No Staff Engagement: Many organizations choose to drive cultural change through top-down telling. This doesn't work. Simply put, there is a huge difference between communication and engagement. To transform a corporate culture, you must engage everyone in the organization by including them in the process and securing their commitment to change.

3. "Flavor of the Month" Mentality: As mentioned above, most staff members have lived through failed change efforts of one form or another in the past. The thought of participating in another one does little to excite or to motivate. So, many choose to just "Wait It Out" - expecting leadership to shift their focus to another "flavor of the month" change program somewhere down-the-line.

What can be done? As offered in the series, the adoption of a proven, structured methodology will enable you to create a sustainable culture that attracts talent, drives brand, improves performance, and creates competitive advantage. Many talk about culture - a process like Culture By Design helps you transform it.

To close, regardless of the approach chosen, it's essential that you cultivate your corporate culture deliberately to position your organization for bold success.

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