It’s a sad fact that the majority of change management programmes fail. Organisations simply under-estimate what it takes. Change management programmes rarely succeed if they are just the latest in a string of confusing initiatives. Right, done that, here comes the next one! A lot of us have seen and experienced that.
The problem with culture change is that it involves people. And we’ve not yet found a way of applying software upgrades to the workforce. But just imagine if, like Microsoft, we could have a monthly Patch Tuesday where all of the latest updates and hotfixes were applied.
In the real world culture change is about commitment, alignment, time and energy. It’s a big investment but the returns can be even greater. More focus on achievement, less empire building and a greater willingness to take responsibility all have a positive impact on the bottom line. And there is some excellent research on this which I will be writing about in a future blog.
It’s certainly true that all members of an organisation have a responsibility in bringing about culture change, but the commitment of the leadership team is most important of all. They have to be role models and evangelists, balancing the needs of people with getting the job done, keeping change high on the agenda and regularly measuring progress.
Back to the workforce, and this is why changing culture really is such a big ask. For the culture to change, everyone in the organisation needs to align their behaviours. But for this to happen everyone needs to think differently and respond differently to people and situations. That kind of change cannot be brought about by edict, software patches or even motivational posters. And it certainly will not be achieved overnight. It takes a great deal of commitment, hard work and investment.
Here are some suggestions for what is needed:
- recognising that culture change is a big ask
- decisive leaders who act as role models
- effective two-way communications so that change can be top-down and bottom-up
- a clear plan
- regular measurement at organisation, team and individual level
It’s not an exhaustive list, but as Lao Tzu said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.