Cultural change: how does it happen?

Organisations often reflect on their existing culture and how in an ideal world it would change. Rarely though do companies genuinely change their culture to suit an emerging market shift, employee expectations or the vision of their leaders. There’s a number of reasons for the desire for cultural change to fail in implementation.

One of the reasons for this failure is that the motivation of the implementers is not reflected across the board, among the broader team. As a result unexpected barriers manifest throughout the organisation which are difficult to predict and even more complicated to resolve. Individuals do engage with a desired cultural shift if the very people who suffer at the hands of a particular cultural structure are asked to recommend change, and are therefore incentivised to find a genuine solution. This ‘suffering‘ can manifest in a number of ways, most noticeably:

  1. A frustration with the status quo and the internal barriers to improvement.
  2. An abject hatred of the current leadership style and the way individuals are treated.
  3. A continual, corporate failure to deliver projects or new products effectively and the stress or feelings of failure this induces for each person.

Of course there are other reasons, but these are the main ones in my experience. I have been described as the ‘canary down the mine’ with regards to taking a cultural temperature (described here in one of my blogs on Emotional Architecture). The cultural temperature of an organisation could be seen as the resonance between individuals, in other words the ‘vibration’ we instinctively feel when a relationship or team dynamic is going well. It’s the sense that people are listening to us and responding in a thoughtful and considerate way. It’s the knowledge that as a result of this behaviour, a healthy relationship between team members, that projects are delivered well as problems are voiced, addressed and resolved.

Much of leadership in an organisation relates to those individuals responding instinctively to moderate any cultural disconnect. It’s a natural, human skill resulting from our early family conditioning, the social expectations between any society members, and our emotional response to stimuli. To create an environment where people feel seen and respected often requires a level of genuine care and the ‘parking‘ of each individual’s ego, at least for the duration of the meeting (I’ve written a chapter about creating an ego free discussion here.)

If you are seeking cultural change for your organisation, I offer a holistic view to assessing and making recommendations for realistic and targeted change. This falls into a number of core steps which can be adjusted to suit each business environment:

  1. Taking the cultural temperature of your organisation and identifying key indicators of dissonance.
  2. Distilling the vision and aims for your organisational culture through 360 interviews, a review of the external marketplace and overview of your corporate strategy.
  3. Selecting key steps to implement to deliver the highest priority aims.
  4. Review of current leadership styles and what gaps need to be filled to achieve the cultural aims.
  5. Assessment of the impact of the Coronavirus lockdown and subsequent working from home situations, and how to shift the expectations of working styles within your organisation for the future.
  6. An observations document on the current motivations to achieve the desired change among your team and how to engender buy-in for your plans.

If you would like to talk to me about this offer, please contact me by email:

Thank you for your attention.

Kind regards, Ruth

Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash

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