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Cultivating a Culture for Change

By Kathy Miller on July 8th, 2013

What are you willing to do to create an organizational culture that embraces change?  If you are like most of our clients, the price you pay when people resist change or, worse yet, sabotage it, is way too high!  By investing some time and resources into setting the stage for change, you may avoid the costs of resistance and reap the benefits of an organizational culture that is change-ready.  We have found that doing some work up-front is the key to successful change initiatives. (See Organizational Culture and Leadership by Edgar Schein for additional reading).

I talked with a client a while back who described a situation in which his employees’ positive reactions to change truly exceeded his expectations.  With great delight he described his extraordinary experience with a major organizational change.  Upon hearing the details, I acknowledged that most of the change efforts that I have witnessed fell short of his accomplishments.  When confronted with the need for change in his organization, he created a culture that was open to it.   How did he do it?

His first step was to form a steering committee of his senior management team to lead the change. He assigned them the task of designing a game-plan for implementing the changes.  He insisted that the steering committee include a detailed communications strategy as well as a training plan.  He expected the change leaders to think through who was concerned about what and who needed to know and do what.  He asked them to craft specific communications and training tactics, both formal and informal, for addressing the employees’ concerns.  Likewise they were go develop a training plan that would equip employees with the knowledge and skills that they needed.

Believing that change takes place one person at a time, he firmly requested that the communications strategy include some face-to-face, informal dialog in addition to the formal web casts, memos, and town-halls.  Likewise, he encouraged the team to develop training strategies that were practical and went beyond the common but not always effective  instructor-led classroom training.  He believed that the company could do a better job of matching the training methods to the realities of the jobs at stake.

He expected each of his senior managers to play active roles in implementing the communications strategy.   Likewise, he expected them to enlist others to assist. He made it clear that they were accountable for the success of the communications and training operations.

He believed that the key to creating a change-ready culture was to stay close to employees, hear their concerns, over communicate key messages face-to-face whenever possible, and demonstrate clear and timely support for their learning.  He said that the change wasn’t without its hiccups, but that it was the smoothest initiative he had ever undertaken.  He was glad that he had invested the time, energy and resources up-front to ready the organization for the changes.  His return on investment for the up-front planning proved that he was right!