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Nov 25, 2013

First of two parts

Booz & Company just released a very interesting culture study.

Here’s the bottom line: Everyone knows culture is important, culture is not being effectively managed, and they gave some incredibly over-simplified guidelines for managing culture. There must be a better way to build pride, drive out fear, and manage culture effectively.

Here are the highlights from the full study:

  • 84 percent of respondents, and 86 percent of C-Suite respondents, believe that their organization’s culture is critical to business success.
  • 60 percent said culture is more important than the company’s strategy or operating model.
  • 96 percent said some form of culture change is needed within their organization.
  • 51 percent believe their organization is in need of a major culture overhaul.
  • 45 percent do not think their culture is being effectively managed.
  • 48 percent do not think they have the capabilities required to deliver lasting change.
  • At 57 percent, skepticism due to past failed efforts was the No. 1 reason for resistance to change.

How do you manage culture?

There are plenty of frameworks for managing strategy, talent, leadership, or performance, but not culture. Culture has been this elusive, mysterious subject. There are numerous surveys and models but most culture management guidelines resort to over-simplified tips, keys or other suggestions.

This study is no different. Booz gives the following “levers” for sustaining change in their culture video and infographic (they are both very interesting):

  • Focus on a critical few behaviors with the most cultural impact.
  • Expand change capabilities beyond leadership and communication alignment.
  • Activate informal levers, such as peer networks and storytelling.

These are all very accurate guidelines, but to say they have any chance at all of delivering “sustainable change” is a gross misrepresentation.

Not a ticket to sustainable change

CEO’s and leaders are left asking “How?” with each lever, but these levers barely touch the surface of any sustainable change effort. Fortunately, they are more connected to performance than the haphazard pizza party, company meeting, or employee survey, but they don’t build a strong culture foundation with any clarity.

Yes, culture is important and most organizations struggle managing it, but I don’t think these “levers,” or many of the other over-simplified best practices we often read about, come anywhere close to supporting sustainable change.

What do you think about the study and the “levers” from Booz? Do you think most people over simplify what it takes for effective culture management?

Tomorrow: The 9 Clear Steps to Culture Change