Business culture

The effects of your culture on change management

Business culture is the sum of your organisation's key characteristics, values, and beliefs and is evidenced in actions and behaviour. It's "how we do things round here".

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  • There are usually sub-cultures [often many] within any organisation
  • It is frequently “invisible” to those within it
  • It filters and distorts data received via the organisation – in line with the beliefs and values etc stored within it
  • It holds the “hidden software” that will determine how the organisation behaves
  • It determines what it focuses on
  • It is the source of the “hard-wired” resistance to change
  • The successful “reprogramming” of it is critical for a successful change programme

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The culture of an organisation has a very powerful effect on how people respond and behave. Although it is invisible to those who within it it nevertheless exercises an influence regardless of their background, education of training. It will often over-ride common-sense.

As an illustration of this, I have witnessed and experienced the effects of very senior people in a large organisation behaving in ways that defied the obvious and common-sense approach.

Based on my own experiences, I would suggest that the organisational culture will be the single biggest determinant of how people will behave.

This is covered in more depth in this site in the

Organisations and Culture section.

For another perspective - here is an interesting overview based on a chapter in Principles of Organizational Behaviour by Robin Fincham & Peter Rhodes: Business Culture

    “Meaningful change in results requires meaningful change in people, processes or technology; usually all three. The difference between a passing fad and lasting change lies in the extent to which you are able to change people's attitudes and behavior.”

    Tom O'Dea

Organisational culture is - in my experience - most effectively changed by basing organisational change on personal change. The rational for this perspective:

  • An organisation can be regarded as a “macro individual”

  • An organisation comprises individuals

  • An organisation is transformed by transforming individuals

Understanding the culture

The process of change goes through these stages:

    (1) Understand the business culture(s) - a process of cognition, to

    (2) Be able to communicate and articulate the business culture and how we want to change it - and have the language and framework to do so, and

    (3) Have the appropriate tools, techniques and processes to make the changes.

This is addressed in detail in the

Organisation and Culture section, and also in the Pre Programme Review and Planning Process

People who are undergoing the processes outlined above will be aware of the need for change, and may accept it in principle. But due to “hard wired” resistance to change and the “hidden software” of individual unconscious attitudes they will fall into 1 of 3 categories (usually the first two):

  1. Wanting to be seen to want to do something
  2. Wanting to be seen to be doing something
  3. Wanting to actually do something

    Each of us has deeply ingrained within us the instinctive WIFM response to change..."What's in it for me?"

It is only when we see the individual and personal benefit that we will truly accept and embrace a change of business culture.

This does not mean simply: "How can I profit from this?" but can also have the deeper meaning: "How is this consistent with my aspirations, and values and what's ultimately most important to me?"

    The effective and successful leader needs to attend to the needs of each and every person impacted by the cultural change.

In my experience, this individual resistance to change is addressed effectively by:

  • Focusing the individual’s attention by arousing their survival instinct
  • Identifying the individual’s own personal vision and aspirations – what really “lights their fire”
  • Exploring and developing a shared perception of how their individual vision can be aligned with your organisational vision
  • Linking the aligned vision to their survival instinct

What's your experience of this?

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