Corporate culture is at the heart of every change initiative. Every workshop I lead on the topic of change management includes a section on corporate culture. I have discovered that many executives have all the right ideas when it comes to encouraging positive changes in their organisation’s culture but they also tend to take short cuts in their attempt to achieve changes that will accelerate positive strategic changes.

The starting point should not be drawing up a long list of corporate traits and behaviours that the executive team would be proud to see in their local or global teams. That simply creates a distance between the management team and the employees who are the corporate culture. The starting point should be: “What are the current strengths in our culture?”.   “Which strengths will help us to achieve our goals?”. If this is not the starting point, strategies could be defined based on unrealistic cultural ideals. For a culture and strategy to evolve in harmony, the current culture should be the starting point and not the ideal culture that is based on a wish list that is too far removed from reality.

Only when the executives understand the strengths of their culture, are able to demonstrate their value and use those strengths, will employees be willing to recognise which traits create road blocks. Executives should then connect with trusted, influential employees at all levels to help drive behavioural improvements. Listen to those trusted employees and allow them to suggest which cultural changes would accelerate progress.  The executives must subsequently display these behaviours themselves.

Therefore, companies should not chose a strategy and then define the ideal culture to achieve that strategy.
The sequence ought to be: understand your culture, connect with it, identify the strengths, choose a strategy that will draw on the organisation’s strengths as well as positive changes that are realistic.

Janet Poot