Change can be beautiful
Many leaders desire culture change within the organizations that they lead but do not know how to cultivate the process. Many others have tried to start the process but are at a loss on how to transform it into real results while some are stuck with the dilemma on managing the change process they have started.
The 7 C’s that Drive Cultural Change
Cultural change does not involve a one-sided approach or a top-bottom autocratic decision. The process involves real people with rational and sometimes irrational ways of thinking. While some are open to the idea of change and usually readily embrace it, others are indifferent to it while many others are on the extreme end of the pole and are highly resistant to the idea of change.
Before change can be planned and implemented, a leader needs to address and assess the elements that drive cultural change. I call these ‘The 7 C’s of Cultural Change’
You have probably been told this a thousand times and are thinking ‘But… I do communicate with my employees’. The question here is not whether you communicate or not. Rather, the question is ‘Are you doing it RIGHT?’
Many leaders do not understand that communication is most effective when those that at the receiving end of the line of communication are allowed to participate actively in the process. It is not about giving orders and expecting full compliance without question; it is participatory and engaging. When employees see that they are allowed to give ideas, advice and suggestions, they are likely to be more receptive to communication.
If there is going to be some significant changes within the organization, employees must be brought up to speed and carried along at every phase. They need to know why the change has to be effected, how the process will be implemented and how the change will affect them (in terms of gains and losses). When employees know these things, they are better prepared for the change. They will be inspired to embrace it and will also be able to manage the ripple effects better.
Before culture change can be discussed, planned and implemented, the organization must have a clear cut agenda for its vision and mission. Employees must know what the organization stands for, where it is going and what it hopes to achieve; all these must be known… and understood. Organizational leadership is responsible for communicating this at all tiers and levels to ensure that there is cohesion in purpose and direction. It must be made plain, simple and easy to grasp even for the lowest-level employee. The achievement of this falls back on the effectiveness of the lines of communication. If employees are able to understand the vision and able to align with their own personal goals and aspirations, buying into the vision and putting in resources to make it work becomes something for them to aspire for, even with/without motivation from management.
This involves risk taking. It is about the ability of an organization’s leadership to stay the course and take on challenges that may arise head-on. Because everything in life and business involves varying amount of risks, it is important that an organization is able to stay on course, even when the desired results are not forthcoming or are lower than expected. The most important aspect is to ensure that steps taken and decisions made are the best course of action and in the best interest of the organization. If the leader is sure that there can be no better alternative and there are no life-threatening consequences that can cause premature death of the organization, then, he has to keep everyone motivated by helping them focus on the end goal to ensure that they stay on track and are not distracted by the short-term challenges.
The Customer is a critical, inevitable element that can determine the pattern and direction of culture change the organization adopts. Since the customer is at the heart of the business and the person who brings in the revenues and profits, the organization has to take decisions based on the needs of the customer. No organizational leader can make decisions independent of the customer if it wants to stay in business as the collective customer power can sink or float the business. Therefore, it is essential that the organization’s customers are carried along and brought up to speed of any change the organization decides to implement. Their opinions must be part of the process and their needs should be part of the framework for decision making.
Successful organizational leaders know the value of collaboration in the design and implementation of cultural change. There must be a fostering of team spirit, team work and cooperation vertically (top-management to mid management to higher-level employees to lower level or entry-level employees) and horizontally (department to department, unit to unit, manager to manager, and employee to employee)
Each person must be made to understand his role in contributing to the change process and the mantra should be ‘everyone matter and every opinion counts’
Cultivating this kind of atmosphere helps foster a sense of belonging and consequently boosts loyalty to the common cause.
Leaders must be willing to have faith in their employees’ willingness, readiness and ability to support and adopt the change process. If a leader cannot trust his subordinates to follow through, he might be under a lot of internal pressure to apply force or coercion in order to get the desired results – a move that may backfire. Employees are more likely to respond to change if they are made to understand and embrace it. Therefore, the onus lies on the leader to find best ways to make the adoption process as straightforward, smooth and transparent as possible.
In conclusion, the underlying factors here are trust and open mindedness across board. Once these have been successfully established, the change process has greater chance of success.
Suggested reading: Is Your Leader Interested In Change?
In order to change culture effectively, one must first understand the current culture. Contact us and we can help.