Culture change – lessons from the field

Culture Change

by Andrew Day

18 December, 2019

Most of our clients are engaged in attempts to develop or change their culture in some way, shape or form. They tend however to tell us they find such initiatives to be tricky, demanding and, ultimately, disappointing. To understand why this is the case, we have been inquiring with leaders and OD practitioners into their experience of trying to change culture. Our report: “Culture…where to start? The realities of culture change in organisations” summarises our findings and practical insights.

What we found

We discovered that a high degree of scepticism exists around planned efforts to change culture, particularly when their aims are ambitious, abstract and idealistic. Those responsible for these initiatives are often left feeling overwhelmed and uncertain of what to do or where to start. They can absorb significant time, energy and resources without delivering the desired or hoped for outcomes. This tends to leave those involved feeling helpless, frustrated and disappointed.

What we learnt

As a result of our research, we concluded that to facilitate culture change, leaders and change agents need to:

– Identify and communicate the adaptive challenge facing the organisation

– Translate this into clear, specific and meaningful goals that employees care about and are committed to

– Understand the full richness, complexity and depth of their cultures

– Raise awareness of how specific cultural patterns help or hinder the achievement of their goals

– Signal change through their own actions and by disrupting established norms, assumptions & beliefs

– Challenge people to question what they do and how they maintain specific cultural patterns

– Change symbols, structures, processes, workspaces and policies to reinforce desired patterns and values

– Review regularly with employees how they are making sense of the changes they are experiencing, hearing and seeing

– Be patient, consistent and persistent!

The above is a high-level summary of our findings.

If you want to read stories from our clients and see more about what we discovered then please download our report:
Culture Change – Lessons from the field



Culture change – lessons from the field

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