When to Change the Culture


How do you know if your current culture needs to be changed?

Most companies could use a few improvements in the way people think and act. These shifts may be necessary because of needed improvements in performance, anticipation of a large change initiative or a change in the business environment.

Connors and Smith point out that, by definition, your culture produces your results. You cannot expect your current culture to produce new results. It may not be a bad culture; it simply isn’t what’s needed if you want different results.

Shifts in culture are required anytime you want people to think and act in new ways to achieve new outcomes. Most of the time, they don’t involve a total transformation, but rather a transition to new cultural norms.

Remember that cultures are powerful, and persistent, and that people are entrenched in their habits and work routines. If you want to achieve new or different results, you will need to create a new culture. To do so, you must define the needed shifts in the way people think and act so they can create new experiences that will translate into new beliefs and actions.

Change Begins with Desired Results

To accelerate a change in the culture, start by defining the new results you wish to achieve. Everyone in the organization needs to be focused on and aligned with the desired new outcomes. Culture changes one person at a time.

Your people must believe that these new results are obtainable. Only then can they change their thinking and actions — something that usually happens when they can verbalize their job descriptions in terms of how they contribute to successful outcomes.

For example, in a restaurant case study, one waiter stated: “My job is to achieve a 5.5 percent profit margin, and here’s how I do it. The faster I clean and set a table, the more people we seat per hour. The more people we seat, the greater our contribution. The greater our contribution, the better our margin. That’s what I do.”

This response is powerful, representing a cultural shift from a mere two months previously. During that time, the restaurant realized a 200 percent increase in profits.

When everyone buys into creating new results, you are accelerating the necessary cultural transition. It doesn’t happen easily. It requires dialogue, engagement, debate and leadership.

Your culture produces your results. If you need a change in results, then you need a change in culture. Your culture is always working, either for you or against you.