How to use culture to make change

Written by
Changeboard Team

30 Sep 2014

30 Sep 2014 • by Changeboard Team

Why is culture important?

The results of our 2013 Culture and Change Management Survey suggested that the value of culture is gaining weight. In asking more than 2,200 global businesspeople for their take on its role in business, we found that they regard it more highly than strategies or operating models in terms of its importance for organisational success.

Despite this, there is a disparity between the way culture is seen by companies and the way it is treated. Fewer than half of the respondents to our survey agreed that their companies manage culture effectively, while more than half say they need to overhaul it completely. As an enabler of change, culture remains surprisingly underleveraged, with survey results supporting what we have observed in our experience of working with organisations. For those trying to transform some element of their business or operations, culture is usually pretty far down the priority list.

Leveraging culture to make change

So how can you use the power of culture to achieve more sustainable transformations? Some of the biggest levers are:

  • A culture diagnostic: Before you can use culture in a transformation or change your culture, you need to know your culture’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • The critical few behaviours: Leaders must focus on changing behaviours that offer the most ‘bang for the buck’ and won’t spread the effort too thin – allowing employees to see positive change quickly.
  • Informal networks: To build skills that make changes last, leaders must leverage informal networks of peer motivators and develop metrics to track transformation.
  • The role of leadership: Leaders must be active and visible in the change to ensure that the entire organisation, including both formal and informal aspects, is involved in evolving the culture. Employees must take ownership and help change, too.

Twice as likely to be successful

Culture is no shortcut to successful corporate change. Nor is culture-led transformation less rigorous than more conventional kinds – it requires as much time and effort. It is the job of management and the people affected by the transition to figure out how to harness the strong cultural attributes of their company to build momentum and create lasting change. Organisations that are able to do this greatly increase the speed, success and sustainability of their transformation initiatives. Based on our survey findings, the odds of success for a culture-led change are about twice as high as an effort that uses more conventional change-management approaches.