Don't try to change culture

Should you try to change culture?

The PMI website has an interesting discussion on Agree or Disagree: Don't Change Culture. I tried to comment but it got weird errors so I'll share my thoughts here.

Don't try to change culture .... overnight. Good leaders do change culture (and bad ones), but it takes years. it's not an immediate fix.

Do try to change behaviour. I know culture can be defined as "The way things are done around here", but I think culutre pertains more to one interpretation of that phrese than to the other: culture is about what we believe should be the behaviour, about why we behave a certain way. The behaviour itself is only an outward manifestation of the culutre and it can be changed more readily. With carrot and stick people will behave differently, and with repetition it becomes entrenched and starts to sink in, to become part of culture. People talk about cultural change when what I think they often mean is behavioural change, which is the immediate business outcome we usually want.

Do try to change climate: the outward and superficial experience of culture. For example you can change a climate of fear or bullying and you should. It can be tough of course but it is essential. It flows from the top: leaders have to set the climate.

From my book Basic Service Management:

    Services are delivered by people for people to people.

    There is no more important factor in service success than people: their culture (behaviours and beliefs), their development, their motivation, and your communication.

    All change to services (new ones, improvements) is change to people: changing their attitudes, their behaviours, their daily practices and habits.

    What is more, successful service providers need staff with a healthy service culture. Unlike products, services touch consumers directly. In order to deliver a service your staff must interact with the consumers.

    It is hard to change the culture of your organisation: the beliefs and habits, “the way things are done around here”. The surface effect of that culture – the “climate” – is easier to change: the practices and habits of people. Over time repeated behaviour and changed attitudes sink in to change the culture. So one way to gradually shift culture is to change the rules and procedures. If you change what people do, you will change how they feel about it and eventually what they believe.

    As well as influencing behaviour, you can also directly influence deeper attitudes, and even the underlying beliefs, through persuasion, education and example. It takes more time and effort but it yields more results.

    Spend a serious chunk of the money allocated for improving service on improving your people: communicate, involve, motivate, consult (pick their brains), communicate, train, incent, communicate, monitor and coach.

    Technology changes at blinding speed these days but people and practices don’t. Real organisational improvement must be incremental and at a human pace. Pushing change too fast breaks culture.

Your views?

Syndicate content