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How to change the corporate culture sustainably
06. September 2019

Corporate culture - what does it mean and how do you approach it?

 

Start reading and you'll notice that corporate culture is a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon. A company is seen as a man-made social construct in which the reality experienced within the company is shaped and determined by the values, ways of thinking and behavioural patterns of its employees. So far so good.

 

The times in which employees were regarded as a machine paid for with money (think of the times of "Taylorism"!) are thankfully over: Nowadays people often want motivation and meaning in their profession. Not infrequently they want to identify with their work, grow with it and develop personally. In some ways, they long for a "home" and a meaningful point of reference in their profession.

 

This can be seen not least in the sociological phenomenon of the so-called "Generation Y", who, strikingly enough, seem to attach great importance to these values and who apparently are less likely than other generations before them to be persuaded by a generous annual salary to take up a permanent position.

 

Before we can change corporate culture, it is important to understand what is behind this word. To this end, we have listed some researchers who have researched well-founded approaches to this topic:

  • Edgar H. Schein «3-Ebenen-Modell»
  • Mary Jo Hatch «verbindende Prozesse»
  • Geert Hofstede «Software des Gehirns»

 

Now, how do I do it?

The following four steps are important for the correct procedure and must be carried out in exactly this order.

 

Analysis

A thorough analysis of the actual state is a prerequisite for a successful culture change. Firstly, this step includes an assessment of the most important environmental factors - market developments, customer expectations, competitive behaviour - and their significance for the current and future corporate culture. Secondly, a critically examined inventory of the strengths and weaknesses of the previous corporate culture is carried out. This step creates the basis for concrete decisions on how to proceed.

 

Concept

The previous step analyses where the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation lie. Now, the development goal must be defined as how the future corporate culture should be structured in its essential elements. The key question here is: "How can this goal best and most effectively be implemented in the company?

 

It is particularly important in this step to always keep an eye on all parts of the organization. Even if the most important impulses for the definition of future cultural characteristics and their integration mostly come from top management, it is of central importance to include other levels of the company. Ideally, organizations here work according to the "countercurrent principle", in which decisions from management are repeatedly compared and enriched with data, perspectives and suggestions from deputy groups from middle management and senior employees.

 

Roll-out

It is in this step that the real challenge of cultural change lies; people within the organisation need to be convinced that they may need to change their values, but certainly their attitudes and behaviour in part (or even in full), and that previous assumptions no longer apply.

First of all, managers must be involved and won over to the cause, because only if they are convinced is it possible to convey the message to the employees. Without the support of the employees, nothing can change significantly.

In the roll-out phase, employees are involved in order to gain support during implementation. Success depends on how it is achieved,

  1. To communicate the need for change and the corresponding measures plausibly and credibly.
  2. To clearly identify concerns and challenges in the process and to work on them together
  3. To work out together how and by which means these challenges can be mastered together and
  4. What support employees and middle management can count on from top management.

 

Sustainability of cultural change

It is not unusual for cultural change projects to come to nothing after initial momentum. What remains are unfulfilled expectations, disappointment, doubts as to whether further change projects will be meant more seriously than the last one that has just failed, and internal resistance to future change projects of all kinds.

 

To avoid such "hardenings" in organizations, we recommend regularly reflecting on how to deal with failures and imponderables, what internal resources are actually available for such a cultural change project, what would be the worst possible outcome of such a project, and how to avoid such developments.

In short, the reflection on the sustainability of such change processes should be part of the process from the beginning in order to identify project risks in advance and enable appropriate corrections in the project architecture.

 

Source: Certain parts of this article have been used by organizationsberatung.net.

Culture, Switzerland, Banks, Change Management
Customer, Switzerland, Banks, Change Management
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