I have had the opportunity to work with senior management in different organizations and have a deep look at corporate cultures. And let me tell you one little secret: Culture isn’t what they would like you to believe, or what’s boldly painted on the walls of their workplaces.
Take for instance, Customer Centricity, loosely defined as ‘Developing relationships with customers to have a positive impact on their lives’, ‘Keeping customers first’, etc etc.
Here’s a little test I’d like to throw your way; pick up last 6 months’ Minutes of Meetings in your office, and try and find how many times, this ‘Customer Centricity’ features in there.Surely, you’ll find sales, customer retention and/or escalations, but find anything about proactively keeping the customer first? When was the last time you discussed any process improvements that were intended to keep the customer first, without being forced to do so due to ‘market happenings’?
And then, organizations wonder why they aren’t seen as ‘customer-centric’!I think I’ve made my point.
Culture is about the connections and the outcome of relationships that foster between people & people and people & business, ultimately impacting performance and business outcomes.
Many companies have now understood the impact Culture has on business, and that having a great company culture is no longer just an option.However, understanding that the Business Leader needs to drive culture is a challenge for most, because they miss the point that organizations are “shadows of their leaders.”
If the senior team doesn’tcollaborate and operates in silos, the organization will witness turf wars, territorialness and blame culture. If they are too hierarchical and power-centric, you’ll find it replicated across levels, with excessive value on titles and insecurity.
It is one thing to diagnose the culture, but quite another to change the habits of adults and systems, especially successful senior leaders. Despite the executive understanding of culture, the fact remains that too many culture change efforts still fail or fall short of their potential.Instead of confronting the real culture issues, organizations find it convenient to push it in the HR bucket, where it manifests in the form of engagement and fun activities, ritualistic annual surveys, and high-tech presentations, with little on-the-ground impact.
Here are some key reasons why organization culture change fails:
- It is treated purely as anHR initiative and is not driven from the top. While HR has a critical role in making culture change work, the CEO can’t forget that s/he is the Chief Culture Officer. Remember, the fish rots from its head. Bottleneck of a bottle is at the top.
- The focus in on the process rather than enablinga deep personal commitment to transformation. Either itis too intellectualor data driven, trying to measure the ROI, but not transformational. It may create some understanding through initiatives like Pulse and 360 surveys, but without transformational ‘ahas’, doesn’treally take-off
- Failure to establish communication channelsmay leave people feeling they are in the ‘dark’, or not important enough, and no one enjoys that. Employees are more likely to participate in all change initiatives if they are kept in the loop and are on the same page. It alsoensures a structure which keeps everyone accountable and focused – all at the same time.
- Closed to Feedback: One reason broken cultures rarely get fixed is because no one really speaks up about what is going on.Nobody (and I mean nobody at the top management) wants to do it, thinking there is too much at stake.When you turn a deaf ear to feedback, your company’s culture degrades.
Thorsten Heins of BlackBerry, Sanjay Aggarwal of Kingfisher Airlines, Tony Hayward of BP, Bob Diamond of Barclays are just a few of the high-profile bosses who have been forced to quit in recent years after their businesses went disastrously wrong.
My research into change introduced me to the work of Kurt Lewin, an early social scientist. He said, “when we are young we are like a flowing river – and then we freeze.” He has theorized that we get frozen into habits, and unless there is some form of unfreezing, we stay stuck. Lewin also advocated treating not just the leader, but the team, the organization, and the whole system.
WYoW’s methodology is inspired from his work, and wefacilitate insight-based interventions for the CEO and leadership teams around the behaviors of a healthy, high-performing leader, team, and organization.
We understand that corporate culture turnaround comes from concrete and noticeable changes in the behaviorand attitude of key critical talent– in what they do,where they focus their energy, what they talk about, and how and whothey inspire