Shaping your company’s culture

Culture is something which is deeply ingrained in an organisation, whether it is deliberate, or not. Attempting to change a company’s existing culture is not something which can be done quickly or easily. However, it can be done, with the right leaders at the helm.

But first, what are the signs that an organisations culture need to be changed? According to Dr. Edgar H Schein, “the warning signs are never “cultural”. They are performance issues that lead to specifying new behaviours needed to fix the problem. The culture gets involved if the new behaviour won’t work because of the culture.”(Forbes, October 30, 2018),

In order to change an existing culture, it may very well be necessary to remove aspects of the old culture. This of course requires change and change is something which people naturally resist, unless the reason for the change is explicitly stated and proof of how the change will enact improvements clearly demonstrated. In addition, it will be necessary to explain why the old methods are no longer relevant or effective. A clear case needs to be made for the change and only then are people likely to embrace the new culture and the changes which are entailed.

Simply saying that a new culture is being implemented and the reasons why however are not enough to enact a lasting change. Values need to be established and the behaviours which support those values need to be outlined and modelled by the organisations leaders. Then those behaviours need to be rewarded within the organisatoin. Therefore, if for example, an innovative culture is to be adopted and implemented by an organisation, it is necessary to reward innovation, not simply the successes, but also the failures. Jeff Bezo’s of Amazon once stated that if an idea has a 1 in 10 chance of achieving a 100 x return on investment then he willing to accept that 9 out of 10 ideas will be failures. Failures are not simply tolerated, but celebrated (Harvard Business Review, October 13, 2016).

To ensure that behaviours and attitudes are adopted by those in the organisation, it is vital that they are demonstrated by the organisations leaders. They must lead by example as behaviours change culture, rather than culture changing behaviours (HBR, October 13, 2016) .