Culture

8 Strategies to Successfully Change Your Company Culture

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The current pace of change in business is unprecedented, and many leaders are looking to refine — or even overhaul — their cultures to better position their organizations for success.

Change is never easy, but changing corporate culture needs to be approached thoughtfully and with resolve. Drs. Kevin and Jackie Frieberg specialize in culture, and the following strategies have been adapted from their work.

  1. Creating a new culture calls for new methods. Creating a new culture will be extremely difficult if you insist on doing it by playing with the old rules. Trying to change while still using the old rules is futile — the rules themselves are part of the problem.
  2. Champion the vision and re-channel the energy. When change happens, people get disoriented and fear and resistance take over. Start by communicating a compelling vision to focus employees’ attention. Give people something to aim at—be specific and avoid generalities.
  3. Make your early moves bold, dramatic, and unwavering. Culture change requires a unique combination of passion, courage, conviction, audacity, and determination. Your early moves must be strikingly bold, lightning fast, and out of character in relation to the old rules. You must gain momentum quickly, and employees need to see your resolve or you won’t overcome resistance.
  4. Surround yourself with talented, tough-minded nonconformists. Creating a new culture is not only about changing the rules; it’s about changing the rule makers. Surround yourself with people who are as passionate about the new vision as you are and are willing to stand up to the heat.
  5. Re-engineer the reward system to reinforce the behaviors you want. Culture change won’t happen unless people see a personal return on investment for behaving in different ways. If you don’t radically restructure how you reward people you’ll fuel the fires of resistance. Change what you celebrate, honor, and who you hold up as heroes. Devote your time to those change agents and vision champions who add value.
  6. Track progress, measure results, and hold people accountable. The cliché is true: You get what you measure and reward. Holding people accountable means paying close attention to what’s important. Like a rubber band, if you relax the pull of the new culture, people will revert back to old comfortable patterns. Tracking progress enables you to know where the resistance lies and where you should be allocating rewards.
  7. Remove obstacles and bureaucratic practices. You’ll gain respect and credibility by breaking the chains of bureaucracy. But bureaucracy is a formidable adversary — it’s the ball and chain of ‘the way we’ve always done it.’ Your employees will have a difficult time contributing to the new cause if they are shackled by the old rites, rituals, and rules.
  8. Establish concrete evidence and tangible results quickly through small wins. Tangible pay-offs fuel the fires of motivation and contain the skeptics. It’s hard to argue with success when you can measure it in hard dollars, time saved, and percentages of rework minimized. Advertise successes—many cultural initiatives fail because employees in the trenches don’t see or hear about positive results.

What have you found to be effective with your culture change initiatives?

This was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.

Michelle M. Smith is the Vice President of Business Development at Salt Lake City-based OC Tanner, an international appreciation company that helps more than 6,000 clients worldwide appreciate people who do great work through consulting, training, and creating customized award and recognition programs. Michelle is a renowned speaker, writer, consultant and trusted advisor to Fortune 500 companies and governments, and President Emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association.