by Guest Blogger – Jodie Nevid

Culture transformation is something that takes time, effort… and most of all commitment. There is no quick fix or silver bullet; however there is a simple and effective approach that can create lasting change. When partnering with clients to take on the almighty culture beast there are a couple of key questions we need answered before we can do anything:

  1. Are you prepared to see it out for the long haul and embed change?
  2. Will senior management ACTIVELY take part in, and support the program?
  3. Are you and your people willing to face the truth, have the tough conversations and move beyond the past?
  4. Do you believe things can be better?

If we cannot get a YES to all four of those questions then we are faced with a red or maybe amber light. Just one ‘no’ to the above questions can jeopardise success and see all investments of energy, time and money go to waste. I must stress a ‘no’ is not always a red light… it may simply be an opportunity to dig a bit deeper and explore the root of the issue. In some instances discussing the 4 questions above can lead to all sorts of discovery… and that in itself can be a powerful activity.

So let’s say we have the green light to go… where to next?

At BRS we have a formula for cultural change and we usually roll it out with clients over a series of 12 month periods. I must stress that our cultural change programs do not deal with culture alone; they are designed to sweep through an organisation and will impact each area of business from systems and processes to strategy, people, customer focus and the almighty bottom line.

Each year is given a theme “2013 – The year of…” and then business objectives are mapped out using 90 day plans, when it comes to addressing culture we will take an organisation through the following 6 stages to drive cultural change.

Diagnose – You have to start by getting real, facing the truth and putting all cards on the table. The diagnose stage can be addressed with diagnostic tools such as culture and climate surveys or it can be done through facilitated discussion. Your budget will guide you… but it must not be avoided.

Discover – Here the senior leaders explore the results from the first stage and stare reality in the eyes. They must listen to, and understand the experiences of employees at every level not just focus on their own world. This requires a united, bold and courageous leadership team, one that will not indulge or avoid negativity, but instead be prepared to lead the way and “become the change they wish to see” (Mahatma Gandhi)

Design – The next stage involves developing a workforce program that matches your needs. It should touch employees at every level and link back to all your inner workings such as vision, values, strategic plan, performance development, recruitment, business objectives etc. Your culture strategy must be designed to link to your business objectives.

Launch – This is the area where most organisations fall down. Don’t develop a great program and then send a ‘you must attend’ email to all staff at the last minute so that people shuffle in reluctantly to a workshop to be ‘fixed’. Sell the opportunity as an investment in each and every person, and as an investment in the future of the organisation. How you launch the program can make or break you… think sell versus tell!

Transform – Now the fun begins, the actual workshops, programs, think tanks, working groups or whatever it is you have designed gets implemented.  As I mentioned earlier the program should engage people at every level. Make it fun and aspirational and ensure all messages link back to the annual theme. It should provide clarity not confusion.

Review – Like the launch this is an area that is often forgotten, there is always the next project to move onto… however the review stage is your link to the next 12 months. Your cultural change program should not be seen as a one-off event. Instead it should create a rhythm and build momentum. If you take your people through these same 6 stages each year with a focus on a new theme image how quickly they will align and grow!

Whether you are a small team of 5 or a large team of 500 the investment in this area is critical. All too often teams paddle like crazy in different directions; it is only when you all begin to row in the same direction, at the same time that you will see true transformation.

For more ideas on how to develop a cultural transformation program or workforce development plan for your organisation contact Jodie Nevid from our Leadership, Team and Culture service line. You can also download more information here.