Creating and Sustaining a Winning Culture
To build and maintain a strong, high-performance culture, it is essential to understand the current state of your organization and, just as important, how it got there in the first place.
According to Edgar Schein, noted management consultant and an authority on leadership and culture, “Leaders can advance their organizations through a more organized and deliberate cultural change process if they do two things."
"The first is to direct significant effort toward understanding the present culture’s antecedents—the initial evolution of the organization’s culture that came from attempting to solve particular problems."
"With this understanding as a foundation, the second thing that managers can do is to find or create a set of new problems that the organization must confront repeatedly and successfully. These problems must demand a different pattern of response, which pattern ultimately will constitute the basis of a changed culture.”
The process of organizational change begins with a specific set of goals in mind—goals that, unless achieved, can seriously impede chances to effectively compete in an increasingly intense marketplace. Communicating this “sense of urgency” is often seen as step one and requires a relentless commitment and consistent and frequent communication to all stakeholders.
A careful review of what came before may include a robust and candid discussion about rituals, rules, requirements, policies, procedures and protocols. Ideally held in a professionally facilitated session, the group is encouraged to speak openly and honestly about these items, ask questions as to how they came into being, why they are in place, and to what extent they matter now. When properly structured, sessions like this can reveal outdated, ignored and/or haphazard application of organizational rules that can be a source of frustration for team members.
One organization I worked with recently had developed a voluminous tome of policies and procedures (P & P’s as they called them). While some structure can bring needed clarity, the sheer volume in this case served to limit managers’ ability to use their best judgement and forced them to invoke policies they didn’t fully understand or agree with.
Through a facilitated team discussion, it was revealed that many of these policies were developed in response to poor behavior by team members, some going back many years. Rather than addressing the matter directly with the individual(s) involved, management saw fit to instead develop and adopt a “new policy” specifically designed to ensure that “this will never happen again.” Not surprisingly, many of these policies communicated to current team members that they are not to be trusted. Worse yet, the consensus of the team showed that senior management would choose which policies would be followed, when and with whom, and which they would choose to ignore.
Creating purpose-driven culture change is a heavy organizational lift. We’ll discuss this topic further next time.
To learn how your organization can measure and improve your corporate culture, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.