Dear Workforce How Do I Change Corporate Culture Diplomatically

By Staff Report

Feb. 22, 2006

Dear Rock the Boat:

Get a grasp of your current organizational culture. Although this may seem obvious, many companies are so eager to make changes that they hurry through this preliminary step or skip it altogether.

Watch for employee resistance. This is the most common barrier to making cultural changes. Often rooted in fear of the unknown, resistance reflects people’s desire to keep the status quo, as well as a belief that the change will not be successful anyway. Changing the culture of business is inherently threatening and stressful because it challenges employees’ long-held beliefs.

For employees to accept change, they need to understand the external and internal pressure on the company that makes change necessary. Otherwise, they can be very resourceful in sabotaging efforts to implement change, often by demonstrating unwillingness to commit to change. They may be pretty cynical, especially if the organization has attempted changes before that turned out unsuccessfully.

In your particular situation, the change journey is just beginning. Educate your employees regarding the need for changes and involve them every step of the way.

Create the awareness that an existing situation is becoming unsatisfactory. The situation and the awareness must be significant enough to produce the motivation to do something about the problem. Tell the employees what is effecting the organizational change, whether it’s competition, new regulations or something else. Let them know that top management is involved in supporting and in implementing the change efforts. Share with the employees any operating, behavioral or organizational performance data to persuade employees to strive for change.

This whole process may be rocky; management and employees must be willing to put difficult, uncomfortable issues out in the open. It may be necessary to bring in an outside expert to facilitate the discussion. They often play a role in analyzing a company’s existing structures and fostering communication on issues and attitudes that managers find difficult to identify or would prefer to ignore.

Here is a checklist to examine as you progress down the road of organizational change:

  • Ensure the endorsement or involvement of high-profile executives.
  • Identify early adopters of the new behaviors and have them champion change throughout your organization.
  • Establish a communication strategy.
  • Communicate the reasons for change.
  • Educate employees on how to accept change.
  • Encourage responsibility without risk of failure/loss of job.
  • Examine the use of current systems and structures (such as performance management and incentives) to foster desired behaviors.

SOURCE: JJ Thakkar, consultant,Capital H Group, the Woodlands, Texas, March 28, 2005

LEARN MORE:Success Rates for Organizational Change provides a chart listing different types of organizational changes and the success rate of each. Also,77 articles on change management.

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