As a person who has dedicated over 20 years of my professional life in the pursuit of assisting clients in setting direction and driving change, I think that I've seen just about all there is to see when it comes to business and cultural transformation. My years in the field have helped me to better understand what works and what does not work. While it's impossible to share all there is to know about cultural transformation, the following are a handful of things that will absolutely crush any attempt to re-imagine and re-invent a business.
Think of these items as the "7 Deadly Sins" of cultural transformation:
1. No Articulated Vision: If you want to drive change within your business, you have to give your people something to believe in and strive for. Your transformation effort should begin with the creation of a vision that fully describes what the business will look like and how it will operate in the future. The vision story that you create must define everything that will comprise the future state of your organization from the products and the services offered to the characteristics of the staff that work there and the clientele that they serve. But, the crafting of a wonderful vision is not enough to ensure success. It has to be shared. Be sure to articulate that vision and communicate it to your people in all of its engaging and vivid detail. Failure to so will result in a failed attempt at cultural transformation.
2. No Strategic Plan: Once the vision is developed and understood, you must jump right into strategic planning--being sure to create the necessary project and programs needed to support and institute the changes imagined in your vision story. You won't achieve your vision for business transformation without crafting a plan to get there. Be sure to engage your key people in the process, too. You don't want it to be dismissed as an ivory tower exercise.
3. No Project Management Discipline: How does a business transform its culture? One project at a time, of course! Therefore, it's essential that you establish a project management philosophy and introduce the requisite discipline that comes from managing work as a set of projects. By doing so, you will improve your firm's ability to sustain its change efforts, while building the project management mechanisms needed to properly monitor and manage the overarching transformation program.
4. Lack of Executive Participation: Your executive team must participate in the cultural change effort. They need to sponsor the projects, attend key workshops, provide opinions in one-on-one interviews, and generally, demonstrate to your people that they believe in and desire the changes defined in the vision. If they fail to participate, your people will begin to lose interest, too.
5. Lack of Communication: Change is scary and most people will naturally resist it. A way to demystify expectations and share progress is to institute and use the communication mechanisms needed to keep people informed and engaged. Typically, the more communication devices that can you can put into place, the better. People consume information and learn in different ways. Be sure to provide your cultural change program communication in a variety of ways to improve understanding and acceptance among your people.
6. Inability to Dig Deeper that the "Usual Suspects": Most leadership teams tend to choose the same people from within the organization to participate in nearly every new change effort. These "usual suspects" are apt to possess better than average skills and dependability. This lessens the risk of failure and speeds completion. However, cultural change requires a broader level of organizational participation to make the outcomes stick. So, be sure to dig deeper into the organization when staffing your cultural change initiatives.
7. Lack of Patience: Cultural change takes time. After all, you're asking people to learn new behaviors and put them into use. Leaders must maintain their dedication to the cause for as long as it takes to achieve the changes envisioned. Too often, cultural transformation efforts are cancelled before they are given the time needed to take hold. Don't let your eagerness for change to sabotage your new culture program.
To close, I hope that you find these insights useful and that you consider them as you embark on your next cultural transformation effort. They have proven to be priceless in the work that I've done over the years. Please let me know how you fare and feel free to reach out if you need a sounding board. It always helps to bounce ideas around with someone who has been there before.
If you like this column, subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss an article.