Organisations have become more serious than ever about culture. Shifting changes in societal values, globalisation, rapid technological innovation and the climate emergency raise fundamental questions about the role, nature and form of organisations. Yet, despite their efforts, many organisations continue to grapple with the challenge of changing their culture to transform what they do and how they do it. In recent years, we have witnessed a series of crises and major disruptions in banking, retail, health, international aid, automotive and other sectors. All of these high-profile cases and others could be understood as problems of cultural adaptation leading to the decline, collapse or reputational damage of the institution involved.
Almost all of our clients have in recent times been engaged in attempts to develop or change their culture. They tell us how tricky, demanding and ultimately disappointing these types of projects can be. To understand these challenges, we have been researching to find out more about what happens in reality.
This report summarizes how different organisations have been attempting to change or develop their culture. It offers practical insights grounded in the experience of those who lead or support these kind of change efforts.
- Leaders and OD practitioners’ experience of trying to change culture and what they have learnt.
- Why culture change is so challenging and elusive.
- What we have discovered about what works in practice.
What follows are stories of what has been tried for better or for worse. Nobody has definitive answers but by looking at what has been learned across a critical mass of organisations, we hope this report can give some pointers for leaders and practitioners about where and how to start, what to focus on and what to avoid.