There is a great deal of talk among change management practitioners about the need to address culture in change.
Indeed, many changes are titled as culture change, even though they may involve much more than culture. It is a bow to the recognition that the culture is going to have to change in order for many changes to be successful. But too few of us really know what culture change means and how to go about it. Some key things to consider when examining the culture change that may be part of your change:
1. Don’t make the change in beliefs and behaviors bigger than the change requires.
There is a natural tendency, when given the responsibility to make changes in the culture, to take that assignment as a broad challenge to fix everything that is wrong with the culture. If that is your assignment, go for it, using well researched descriptions of an optimal set of beliefs and behaviors. But if your assignment is to change the beliefs and behaviors that are embedded in the culture but will challenge and conflict with the new software you are installing, the expansion into new parts of the world for your business, and your redesigned and more efficient process; change only those beliefs and behaviors and leave the rest for another project.
2. Identify those areas of culture you will need to change.
Look for the key areas of the culture that could impact the success of your change. Some of those area are:
The fundamental beliefs about how managers manage
The fundamental beliefs about quality
The fundamental beliefs about customer services
The fundamental beliefs about how we communicate
The fundamental beliefs we hold about our leaders
The fundamental beliefs about change
If the change you are making will have no impact on customer service, go on to the other areas of the culture that will impact the success of your change, even if what people in your organization believe about how to treat customers is not optimal.
3. Present the changes in the beliefs and behaviors as one part of the change.
Multiple elements of work are intimately related and it helps the people impacted by a change to see the picture of what is changing as a whole. A change in what we believe about communicating with one another results in changes in behavior which means we may need revised communication processes, new communication skills and, perhaps, changes in communication technologies. Culture changes do not exist in isolation. Show people this integrated picture and they will have a better grasp of what is changing. This representation also helps the project team to grasp what changes they have to make.
4. Apply the fundamentals of resistance identification and mitigation planning you use for other change elements
Successful changes in beliefs and behaviors calls for three key change management tools.
Make sure people understand why the changes are necessary, what the future beliefs and behaviors will look like and how you are going to help them to change.
If the new culture requires skills that people do not currently have, provide them with the training they need.
And equally vital, when they make the effort to exhibit the new behaviors, be sure their managers are there, ready to compliment them and thank them for the effort to change. Those who do not make that effort will need prodding from their managers who will need to make it clear that the new culture, the new beliefs and behaviors, are a requirement of their job.