Culture is a hot topic, but it’s also a complex one. People conceptualize culture differently, and so consequently culture change is conceptualized differently as well.
Regardless of how exactly you think of culture and culture change, one thing we know is that only a fraction of change efforts are successful. That’s not due to a shortage of talented, well-intentioned folks. On the contrary, there are tons of great people who desperately want something better for their organizations, only to eventually resign themselves to the fact that it’s just not going to happen.
Change efforts stall out at different stages and for any number of reasons and combinations of reasons, but here are some of the bigger ones (in no particular order).
Reasons Your Company Culture Will Never Change
1. Your company culture will never change if people within the organization — and especially executives — underestimate how badly the organization and employees need the change.
This leads to a lack of urgency, of course; and without a sense of urgency around something like this, it will easily slip to the bottom of the pile and into oblivion.
2. Your company culture will never change if the executive team isn’t united in its complete commitment to the change.
I believe this one so strongly that it’s actually built into the process I use with my clients. A united, committed executive team is a non-negotiable piece of a culture effort. I mean, think about it. How can you expect an organization to rally around a change if a chunk of the executive team isn’t even wholly committed to it and supportive of it?
[bctt tweet=”A #companyculture change is doomed to fail if the #leadership team isn’t united & committed to it.”]
3. Your company culture will never change if it becomes clear that some executives and/or managers, while saying the right things about being supportive of the change, are behaving in ways that are clearly not in line with the new direction.
This undercuts the change, and unfortunately and unfairly chips away at the credibility of the rest of the executives and managers who are trying to champion the change.
4. Your company culture will never change if the organization’s identity wasn’t adequately clarified.
A culture change ought to be rooted in an organization’s purpose and identity. If it’s not, what’s being called a “culture change” is usually just a set of behaviors that a group of executives would like to see adopted at a given point in time. It doesn’t have an anchor and isn’t typically very coherent; and subsequently, it isn’t sustainable.
5. Your company culture will never change if there aren’t robust, meaningful, specific, and well-defined core values in place.
Core values are what will guide so many things moving forward. If they’re too general, too vapid, too abstract, or too universal, they won’t do what core values are supposed to do for your organization.
[bctt tweet=”Having well-thought-out, meaningful core values is a key to great #companyculture. #leadership”]
6. Your company culture will never change if employees aren’t included along the way.
Too often, culture changes come as a surprise to employees rather than being something employees are empowered to be a part of creating and driving themselves. Bet you can guess which way works better.
7. Your company culture will never change if people aren’t empowered to make things happen.
This is more common than you think. After a change is communicated, you’d be surprised how often no one exactly knows what to do, or who can do whatever it is that needs to be done. Say a couple of employees have an idea for an experience they think really jives with the new direction and they want to take ownership and make it happen. Are they able to? How many people do they have to ask? How high up the ladder does it have to go? If it’s enough of a hassle, it will discourage them from doing it again.
[bctt tweet=”Empower employees to be part of making #companyculture change happen. #leadership”]
8. Your company culture will never change if there are people, processes, structures, or other things that are obstacles to the new culture taking hold, but that are allowed to remain entrenched.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. You can’t say your culture is defined by positivity and have an executive who is an angry tyrant or a manipulative sociopath. You can’t say your culture is going to be known for being extremely efficient and simultaneously have antiquated processes all over the place that make everyone’s jobs way more difficult than they need to be. Make sense?
9. Your company culture will never change if organizational alignment is misunderstood.
It has to be completely integrated and anchored into every facet of the organization. Every process. Every structure. Every department. Every decision. Every strategy. And so on.
10. Your company culture will never change if you mistake something else for real, substantive change.
Maybe it’s a rebrand. Maybe it’s a new building. Maybe it’s something else. But culture change is a fundamental, DNA-level, reframing of an organization’s identity.
11. Your company culture will never change if you haven’t planned for how to make the culture shift sustainable to the point it becomes the new normal.
Ok, so you’ve announced the changes, made a few cosmetic adjustments, and have some events planned over the coming weeks; but what’s next? Culture development is an ongoing process, and a culture shift really can’t be considered “complete” until the desired state has become “the new normal.”
12. Your company culture may never change if you don’t have the expertise inside the organization to help make it happen.
This isn’t a slam. It’s just that not every organization has folks in-house who have the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities to lead and orchestrate a culture shift. This, of course, is where folks like me have the privilege of rolling up our sleeves and coming alongside great organizations trying to make positive and meaningful change happen.
What about you? What things have you seen get in the way of positive change happening at organizations? Let us know in the comments below!