10 Tips for Changing Your Organisation’s Culture

Culture change initiatives require a significant investment of time and perseverance. While training interventions provide you with the skills and framework for creating sustainable behaviour change – what happens after the course is even more important (think the 70:20:10 model).

Here are 10 tips for changing the culture within your organisation:

1. Be clear about the change you want to see

What are the new behaviours you want to be seeing, hearing and experiencing? Too often organisations invest heavily in new processes, procedures or structures in the hope of changing the culture, without considering the precise behaviour they expect to see and therefore results it will achieve. Clarify your measurable result by creating SMART goals.

2. Make sure you have leadership commitment

A management-led culture of ‘do as you’re told’ or even worse ‘do as I say, but not as I do’ will not get positive commitment from across the organisation. You’ll see shortcuts, cynicism and possibly resentment; certainly not buy-in. To create positive behaviour change, the leadership team must role model the new behaviour. When this filters down throughout the organisation, best practice becomes ‘the way we do things’ or a people-led culture.

3. Get buy-in from all levels of the organisation

Increase staff engagement by asking for feedback and creating a culture which aligns with peoples’ personal values. Your employees want to make a positive difference within the organisation, but to do so they must understand and support the bigger picture.

4. Improve communication

Help individuals and teams from across the organisation to understand the change initiative with clear and consistent communication. Employees should be able to share best practice, but also have the skills to speak up to colleagues and their boss when things aren’t going so well. If there is a culture of silence within your organisation, change initiatives are doomed from the start.

5. Look for positive deviants

There may well be some individuals or teams within your organisation who already role model the behaviour you want to see. Start by searching for settings or scenarios where the problem should occur, but doesn’t. If you can identify the unique behaviour of this individual or team, it can be extremely helpful in discovering key sources of influence to help you solve the issues that you face.

6. Search for opinion leaders across the organisation

Opinion leaders are not always managers, top performers or even the more extrovert members of staff. If you can identify the opinion leaders within your organisation and successfully gain their buy-in, you will be able to exert a great deal of influence on the behaviour of others; through social influence.

7. Hold people accountable

Accountability is critical to the success of your culture change initiative. When you witness an employee not meeting the new standard, describe the gap between the expectation and the observed behaviour. If you can achieve this without verbalising your potentially negative story for why this might be the case, you are far more likely to engage in an open and honest conversation. If not, you’re heading for confrontation.

8. Eliminate activities that deviate from the path to success

Once you have your SMART goal and understand the change you want to see, look for existing systems, processes and procedures which deviate from this plan and that could have a negative impact on achieving your overall behaviour change goal.

9. Track key measures

Right from the outset, identify a small number of measures against which you can track progress. Set markers along the change cycle to understand if performance is on target. Most importantly, make sure the measures you choose are directly linked to your overall goal.

10. Be consistent

Change cycles take time. We believe it can take up to 2 years for a change initiative to be truly successful. Sadly, when organisations attempt to introduce change on a regular basis without considering these tips they unwittingly create a culture of cynicism. Stick to your convictions and be consistent throughout the change cycle to maximise its impact and success.

By Joe Mackintosh, Senior Facilitator at Grahame Robb Associates Ltd.