I am being regularly asked how to go about changing a toxic organisational culture. We have developed our own tried and tested approach to culture change developed over many years of working with clients to deliver the holy-grail – a sustainable culture change initiative that delivers long-term change. Achieving cultural change is a difficult and lengthy process but it can be achieved with adequate leadership resolve.
It’s a 4-step process:
Step 1: Align Culture with Business Strategy
It is important to define what kind of organisation do you want to become? The mission, vision, values and behaviours that align and reinforce the strategic direction of your business need to be established and implemented so they become part of your DNA. In terms of level of effort and impact, this step probably takes approximately 10% of the effort of your culture change initiative and has little impact on its own. Yet, it sets a firm foundation for change.
Step 2: Actively Communicate the Style of the New Culture
Active 2-way communication is an essential component of any culture change programme. In terms of level of effort and impact, this step probably takes approximately 20% of the effort of your culture change initiative. It begins to have an impact on your business as staff receive targeted communications that build a compelling case for change and highlight benefits (including any dis-benefits) for them. They are also given the opportunity to become engaged in the process through staff surveys, focus groups, workshops etc. However, these initial two stages will not in themselves deliver a strategy for long-term change because there is still no real incentive for staff to do anything differently and commit to the change process.
Step 3: Take Organisation Actions to Shift the Culture
By the end of Steps 1 and 2, staff understand what needs to change and why. Step 3 is all about how to reinforce those changes at an organisational level. A key example is changing HR policies and procedures to align to the changes. For example:
· Performance management
· Rewards and recognition
· Exiting staff members who continually demonstrate resistance
These changes will speed up the culture change process and ensure that changes are embedded within the business. This step accounts for approximately 30% of the impact of the change programme and will begin to make a shift in any organisation. However, even this may not be enough if the leaders of the organisation do not actively sponsor and support the process.
Step 4: Be the Change You Want to See in Your Organisation!
Leadership is by far the strongest lever of cultural change, accounting for approximately 40% of the impact of change. This final step is all about the leaders in your business exemplifying the values, beliefs, capabilities and behaviours they want their staff to demonstrate. So often leaders adopt a ‘do as I say’ way of behaving and not ‘do as I do’. Some even seem to believe that it’s OK for them to carry on as before whilst everyone else in their business changes. Nothing sabotages the success of culture change more than this.