Culture Change – The Hardest Thing a Company Can Do

I’m a big fan of the Harvard Business Review blog network. Lots of interesting pieces from a wide variety of voices. Great for stimulating some thinking. One in particular struck me recently as it gave a concrete look into one of the most talked about, yet I feel most difficult, management situations: culture change management.

Companies often talk about the need to change the culture, or that things will turn around if we can adapt our culture. While that kind of thinking is probably true, it’s not a simple directive that can be delegated to an individual. It’s clichéd to say, but it’s one of those things that has to start at the top. If senior management isn’t walking the talk, then nobody will. Why? Because the majority of employees emulate what they their leadership doing. Is management rude, or do they not operate a good work-life balance? Then neither will the employees.

As much as consulting companies love making tons of money off guiding companies through a change process, the process of a cultural change, is not something that can be accomplished through new processes or rules. Its simple – shifting a corporate culture can only happen through successful action.

You can’t put the cart before the horse by saying “our culture is…” without first being able to demonstrate, even in small ways, how your organization exemplifies that type of culture. As another HBR post points out, one of the best ways to derive change from individuals is through peer pressure. If you’re able to demonstrate that others around you are performing or behaving in a particular way, then others are more likely to follow suit or risk no longer fitting in.