Every day we read articles that claim that a company's culture can be systematically and predictably changed. Along the same lines, companies voice
the need for an entire transformation when they face a crisis or their strategies do not quite work out as intended.
As understandable as such calls for action may be, in reality, an organization’s culture is deeply embedded in the system and is therefore extremely difficult to change.
Here are some reasons why:
- The culture of an organization is practically its DNA. Culture determines how everything else in the organization unfolds. As Peter Drucker said: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
- "The organization and its culture are reciprocal and interdependent: the organization, its design and strategies influence its overall culture and vice versa.
- An organization's culture reflects its deepest values and beliefs. Trying to change it can call into question everything the organization holds dear, often without that conscious intention.
- The culture of an organization is embedded in the entire organizational system. Each little change effects every layer of that system.
- Organizational culture evolves over time. An organization’s identity is based on its culture, which is deeply linked to its history and development.
In sum, the culture of an organization creates its unique, complex face and character. As such, it is as difficult to change in its entirety as the whole personality of a human being or that of a nation.
What inspires the wish to change organizational culture?
The question is where the wish to change an organization's culture originates. Oftentimes, the call for change arises with the realization that a certain behavior no longer suits the organization the way it did in the past. In our complex times, the call for deeper change arises more frequently than it used to. However, attempting to change the overall organizational culture not only risks throwing the baby out with the bath water, but it is also the least likely strategy to result in change. And while the organization is pursuing the impossible, the real pain point may remain unaddressed. However, when an organization asks for an overall culture change they may actually be looking for a change in the behavior of groups within the organization. The good news is that this is a lot easier to achieve.
Leveraging culture instead of changing it
Changed realities call for different action. Different action depends on a change in mindset and behavior. On which level and to what extent the behavior change is required, can be determined by an in-depth multi-layered assessment.
Whatever the outcome, it is easier for an organization and its people to embrace new behavior when it is based on the cultural values of the overall system. Therefore, it may be much more beneficial, efficient and cost effective to identify your organization’s unique culture and values in order to utilize them successfully to change as a collective. Appreciating your unique culture and values and translating those values into respective action in a changed environment can increase commitment and effectiveness of your teams and units, and ultimately your entire organization. Fully embracing your unique culture can ultimately result into the desired change — not necessarily of the entire culture but of what truly counts in business — the way the organization and its people act.
Erika Jacobi is the President of LC GLOBAL Consulting Inc. LC GLOBAL® leads people and organizations through important change and innovation processes to pave the way for unique transformation and sustainable growth. For more information visit www.lc-global-us.com or follow us on Youtube at http://bit.ly/1CPbMQ5.