Could Your Company Culture Be Getting In Your Way Of Change

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Adastra ConsultingChange ManagementCould Your Company Culture Be Getting In Your Way Of Change
26 November 2017 Posted by Eilis Maher Change Management No Comments

The biggest challenge is not figuring out the right things to do, it is making the right things happen. Who does not want innovation or, collaboration to be in the DNA of their organisation?  Who does not care about quality? All highly admirable attributes, but they are difficult to implement. Know this: if there’s a direct conflict between a change and your current culture, your culture will prevail.   

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’, Peter Drucker.

Every company has a culture, whether they choose it, or, not, that speaks to the quality of leadership or, its lack thereof. There is a direct link between a company’s culture and the results it produces, providing a program to transform entrenched patterns into potent new ways of being and doing.

When planning and instituting change the key differentiation for high performing companies is that the executive team has ability to define and uphold an organisational culture that is healthy and mission-focused. The problem with most companies is that their leadership honestly believe we do not have the time or, money to invest in culture. They think it is a waste of time and resources. Yet, without a decent workplace culture, any change efforts will not be as fruitful as they otherwise could be and likely to fail.

A company may have a great change strategy, but what good does it do for an organisation to be epic on strategy while running off the fumes of a negative culture? What good does it do rolling out the shiny new toys or, new business practices when a business can barely limp through the day because everybody in the building wants desperately to leave? How can we be of service to anybody if, you treat our own staff like crap?

Do you see any of these red flags in your organisation, to consider whether your culture might be a bit sour:

  • Your turnover rate is high and people jump ship regularly.  Staff morale is fractured and most staff leave the organisation hurt and disillusioned. If your turnover rate is over 15% annually, do not ignore it: find out why this is happening.
  • There is a distinct need for staff to practice CYA (cover your a**). Staff are often frustrated by their culture, with some describing their workplace as being dominated by negative and toxic personalities, with underhanded and manipulative infighting that stifles growth, innovation and results. Which drives them to be more concerned with making sure they do not ruffle feathers than they are with doing good work.
  • Blame is rampant. Meanwhile, accountability is nowhere to be found. It is rarely anyone’s fault  it  just a case of good people that mean well, operating in a system that rewards self over organisation.
  • Communication is guarded at best, nonexistent at worst. When staff members talk about one another it is usually in unflattering terms. Complaining and whining were the most common modes of communication with little respect for the contribution of others on the team.
  • People call in sick. Like, a lot. Absenteeism is a massive clue that something may be amiss with your culture.
  • People cry a lot at work. This is not a joke. It is something that does happen. Let’s be real here – we expect people to compartmentalise and buck up at work. If it is not crying, it is getting angry. It is shutting down. It is somehow funnelling overwhelming emotion somewhere, anywhere, in hopes of getting through the day.
  • The board is disengaged or, appears to be controlled by the CEO or, the executive team.
  • The CEO or, executive team appears disengaged or, too engaged. When leaders or, managers over-identify with their jobs, they can get…weird…about it.
  • The organisation has grown or, decayed beyond the leadership’s ability to manage it.  The leadership was more interested in saving face than making decisions based on integrity. Changing their minds every time they give a directive, but not acknowledging the flip-flop.
  • Departments and individuals are ‘siloed’ and resist calls for collaboration or, sharing responsibility towards a common mission.
  • Try as you may, you cannot get staff to align with priorities or, results…or, nobody knows what they are, or, what their role in achieving them is, and do not know who to ask.
  • Bottlenecks abound. One person, or, a few people, have input on every decision that ever has to be made, creating backlogs, slowing progress and irritating everyone.
  • People spend more time complaining about the work environment than actually doing work.
  • Staff have little or, no autonomy over the conditions that shape their work. People have to get approval for everything, or they are observed and managed so tightly and severely, they feel like they’re in The Gulag. Inevitably leaving the management needing to influence others to get things done by any means. 
  • People gossip constantly. They put other people down. Complaints about other peoples’ performance fill the halls but never seem to reach a level of actually doing anything about it.
  • There is no staff development or effort to create opportunities for staff to advance through the ranks and into leadership.
  • Efforts to make central leadership aware of people performance and the cultural issues are bounced back to department leadership – which, of course, was where the problems began.
  • A “hero culture” is exalted – wherein business and overwork is the norm, whether it gets any actual results or, not.

I am sure this list is not exhaustive. It is just scratching the surface of a very deeply unfortunate way of doing business. Not all companies operate in such a toxic environment but, you get the point how people connect in your organisation, managers and leaders engage is a significant factor that that can make or, break your change effort.

Can an unhealthy, siloed, political or, bureaucratic culture be turned around for good? Yes, if you are interested in building a high performance culture, start by reflecting on the characteristics in this post. See in our related blog How Top Performing Companies Cultures Reflect Better Outcomes In Terms Of Change. There are plenty of cases using the right diagnostic tools and frameworks companies can turn from crisis to all time high performance companies.

If you are interested in building a high performance culture, start by reflecting on the characteristics in this post. Understanding where you are right now is as important as identifying where you are going. Every organisation is different, and every organisation will find their change capability is stronger in some areas than in others.  The first step to building your change capability roadmap is to undertake a gap analysis and get a true picture of where you are today. A proper gap analysis consists of 3 steps:

  1. Assess your organisation’s current maturity level to determine the gap you need to close to develop change capability in the organisation.
  2. Understand what change management frameworks and processes already exist inside the organisation, if any.
  3. Assess how change implementation has taken place in the past, key successes and failures in the way change management processes have been applied.

While it might be tempting to jump straight into change projects, we recommend companies facing continuous change and project activity seek to institutionalise organisational change management. Developing your change capability roadmap is a change project in itself, and should be approached as such.

Do not think you have the time or, money to invest in developing your organisation change capability? Can you afford not to?

Are you interested in having a change maturity assessment to measure your current level of maturity for change in your organisation to plot the steps needed to move move from current to future change maturity goals.  


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