To Change Your Company's Culture, Don't Start by Trying to Change the Culture - Deepstash
Upskilling: Preparing For The Future

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Upskilling: Preparing For The Future

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Beyond Inspirational Speeches

Beyond Inspirational Speeches

Culture change is probably on your leadership agenda. You may want (or feel forced) to create a post-pandemic culture or become more collaborative, innovative, or aggressive.

But most companies fail in this because they try to change culture directly—through speeches, training programs, or direct intervention in meetings.

Dantley Davis, the new vice-president of design at Twitter, asked employees in a meeting to critique each other. The idea was that tough criticism would help. Instead, people ended up feeling insulted and angry.


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Changing Company Culture

Pain is part of the cost of successful knee surgery, but that doesn’t mean banging someone on the knee with a hammer is successful knee surgery. Culture is how a group does the things it does. It changes because people start doing things differently or start doing different things. The causality doesn’t go the other way.

You first need to change how the company is organized, managed, and led in light of its strategic goals. The goals themselves may need to change. A new culture then emerges as a byproduct of these changes.


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Culture Is The Barrier To Change The Culture

Company culture cannot be changed by attacking it.

Culture gets changed by doing real work in line with the new strategy, a new governance model, business processes, or performance management systems. Not much happens from pure culture conversations because they don’t result in a clear idea of what needs to change and how it will be changed to reinforce key strategic priorities.


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The Ford Example

When Allan Mullaly took over Ford in 2006, he faced a culture of competition between units rather than cooperation on strategic goals. Instead of chasing shadows by trying to change attitudes and culture directly, Mullaly created cross-unit meetings to identify and solve major business problems.

Focusing on changing the way work was done to solve concrete business problems inevitably changed the norms for collaboration—that is, the culture.


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Strategic Fitness Process (SFP)

A Strategic Fitness Process (SFP) results in a “conversation” that’s honest (with the whole truth on the table), collective (involving key people across the organization) and transparent (nothing is hidden—neither the process nor what senior management learned and plans to change).

SFP has proven a powerful tool because it not only changes how work is done and with whom, but also increases commitment to dramatic change and the trust that is essential to such a commitment.


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