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Change Management, Processes optimization

February 16, 2015

Changing organization culture: a long-term endeavor


Is your company facing new challenges that require a change in culture? Out of all changes, modifying corporate culture is undoubtedly the longest and the most complex kind. This post will give you 5 ways to start off right. Among others, it is inspired by the conference “How to transition from a silo model to a matrix structure and how to benefit from it” organized on February 10th by the Network of Management Consultants of Quebec.

1)                  Where do I begin? Define your values

Values are not just vain words meant to decorate the hallway of the premises of your organization. They establish the foundation of your corporate culture. They distinguish your organization from your competitors. Like a compass, they also orient every step of your organization in carrying out its mission and in pursuing its vision. Therefore, it is fundamental that these values are carefully identified. Although partisans of a top-down definition of values still may run up against defenders of the bottom-up approach, remember that there is no secret formula for all organizations. Just be aware that the choice of values is above all an exercise in leadership meant to give impetus, which does not mean you cannot rely on the participation of your employees or even the participation of other internal or external stakeholders.

2)                  Determine the behavior you expect

No matter what approach you may choose to identify the values of your organization, once they are identified, they must be anchored in your employees’ everyday lives. Therefore, it is crucial to involve them in defining the values chosen. By defining the manifestation of values in concrete terms with them, you are letting each of them understand the expected behavior and therefore prevent any rejection or cynicism caused by values that are too theoretical. Once your values are concretely defined, be sure to take special care of the communication and multiply the activities meant to promote their adoption and appropriation: values cannot be ordered, they have to be experienced. And for them to be truly experienced, you will need to identify the gaps between existing behavior and expected behavior. Once these gaps are identified, you can implement the development actions that are necessary to solve them.

3)                  Adapt your systems

A corporate culture is not manifested only through the behavior of its employees; it is also conveyed in the way your company is structured and organized. For example, you may opt for innovation as a value, but you will never make this value come alive with your obsolete systems lying at the other end of what you are preaching! A cultural change is, and will generally often lead to, a change in systems. A change of culture, might require to adapt your business model, your strategic planning or your budget, financial or human resources management system. That is a lot of work in store! In this respect, an integrate approach is the key to success. It will help you keep sight of the different changes undertaken and to maintain coherence.

4)                  Be aware of symbols

In terms of culture, do not forget that symbols are particularly important. The way in which you distribute your resources, allocate your time, exercise control or assign rewards are also implicit conveyances of your culture. Be sure to be coherent in your messages. And do not forget that in this respect, your managers will have to play as role models, so begin with them. Don’t they say that well-organized charity begins at home?

5)                  Be patient

A change in culture is not done overnight. This is generally a long-term endeavor with lots of areas to work on individually, and will generally stretch over several years. So be patient and do not get discouraged. Thanks to your new compass, every step – no matter how small it is – will be taken in the right direction.


By Hélène Chaineux Consultante en Gestion de changement
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