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Succeeding with cultural change

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A cultural change or reinforcement takes time to implement, but is well worth the effort if you succeed in creating a strong culture in the company. An organization’s culture is defined through common values that become patterns of behavior and which are strengthened or weakened over a long period.

To succeed with a cultural change it can be a good idea to think about the following five areas:

1. Explain the purpose of the cultural change

All change projects should start with an explanation of why the change is necessary. Is your business model changing, or does your business require an increased focus on, for example, innovation instead of costs? Are you working in relation to a new market which requires another way of thinking? Have you been made up of two businesses that have been amalgamated and that are now going to be one? There can be many reasons, but regardless, all employees that are affected need to understand the purpose and the plan for how the change is to be implemented.

2. Understand your current culture

You need to understand your current culture to be able to change it. Which patterns of behaviour will help you to achieve the goals you have set? Which patterns of behaviour must be changed as they counteract your goal? It might involve, for example, leadership behaviour – how do you want your managers to lead, how controlling should they be and what freedom should they give the employees? It can also concern how you should treat your customers and how you relate to each other within the company.

3. Create consensus and examples in the senior management

The senior management must be in complete agreement on which culture, and thus which patterns of behaviour, are to be strengthened, introduced or changed, and act thereafter themselves – be positive examples and “walk the talk”, as well as establish the right conditions for middle managers so that they can be examples too.

4. Measure the changes

If you don’t measure, neither do you know what works or what needs to be changed. Measuring enables you to ensure that you are moving in the right direction. The changes should be implemented in small continuous steps which can be continually evaluated and corrected if necessary. It takes time, but perseverance will lead to success. Culture does not need to be difficult to measure – contact us and we will tell you how.

5. Work with positive reinforcement

Before you initiate your cultural change, it is important to analyse how you should relate to each other. How should you relate to each other when you observe behaviour that you would like to see more of? How should you react when you observe behaviour that you would like to disappear? In this context feedback comes in as an important tool.

Managers and colleagues need to continuously praise and support the employees who act according to the behaviour you would like to reinforce. It is also important to understand who the informal leaders are in the company who support the cultural change and can help to strengthen the correct behaviour. The more individuals who boost positive behaviour and provide invigoration and energy to those who are entering into the culture and values in the desired way, the better!

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