When change fails, it’s usually because the status quo culture was too large of a barrier. Status quo is a powerful force that always opposes change.
How can leaders, managers and change agents apply an understanding of culture to improve their change success? We created a 15-point check list that you can download here. A few things to emphasize:
- Why it matters – Culture is a result of human being’s craving for predictability and certainty. It develops over time when there is a consistent group of people, and is formed from shared history and the learning that comes from many experiences together. This creates the patterns that define the acceptable ways to think and behave in response to various situations. Change by its very nature disrupts certainty and predictability. Culture responds by attempting to maintain status quo. A change process that uses the power of culture maximizes change success.
- Assess the culture & climate both qualitatively and quantitatively. Both organizational culture and climate are essential to understand, but there is a significant difference between them. Climate pays attention to the shared attitudes and perceptions about things like mission, teamwork, and what managers are doing to engage employees. Culture looks a level deeper at the underlying expectations, norms or “unwritten rules” that drive behaviors. Both qualitative and quantitative culture measures are critical. Qualitative data provides objective measures against a standard and qualitative data provides context.
- Use the culture data – the quantitative and qualitative data is useless if it’s not applied to the change. Make sure that there is clarity about the current state. What are the primary beliefs and mindsets that exist and how will they support or subvert the change? Once you are clear on what exists, then consider what beliefs, behaviors and cultural norms are needed to achieve the change. That’s the gap, and it’s how to build a change plan that succeeds.