How to accelerate culture change

Culture change...

Are you of the school of thought that changing organization culture is a complex, linear, time-consuming process, one that typically would take years to plan and execute? A process that requires courage to break down silos and is firmly a leadership-derived and -driven one, requiring significant commitments of time and energy from the C-suite?

Turn that idea around and see the concept of ‘culture change’ from a different angle.

A concise post in the Harvard Business Review blog shines a spotlight on the topic, illustrating a process that embraces an entire employee population through leadership engagement at all levels and employee involvement, showcasing what the North American business of one global company did that could be a blueprint for others:

[... the company] uses a combination of a culture survey and an employee engagement survey to assess the current state of their culture. This assessment forms the basis of a conversation about the culture they want. First, they identify areas of strength, such as customer focus, and areas for development, such as teamwork. The aimed-for future culture includes three essential elements:

  • Vision: where the organization wants to go together
  • Mission: what they do together
  • Guiding behavioral principles: how they expect all [employees] to behave

There must be a clear connection between the target culture and the overarching strategy of the company. With a clear understanding of the target culture and behaviors, leaders can then consciously and more effectively influence employees with their behavior and by how they “ARM” (Allow, Reward, and Model) the targeted behaviors of [employees]. The survey process also identifies specific offices that are leading the pack as well as those which are falling short with regard to culture [...]

Note one significant phrase:

  • There must be a clear connection between the target culture and the overarching strategy of the company.

The example is about Trane, a global provider of heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems, and a subsidiary of Ingersoll-Rand. Trane has 29,000 employees, the majority in the US.

This description doesn’t look that much different to a process that is probably familiar to you, if you’ve been involved in any culture-change exercise.Yet there is a clear and eminently measurable objective underpinning the concept of the desired change, as HBR notes:

[...] Leaders and managers typically don’t think of cultural change as a lever for achieving breakthrough business results. What Trane has achieved shows that they should think again.

Read If You’re Going to Change Your Culture, Do It Quickly by Brad Power at the HBR Blog Network for more, including a description of outcomes during the process itself.

Thought-provoking actions.

(Image above via Corporate Culture Pros.)

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