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How to change a company culture (video)

People & Culture Change 25th May 2019

About the speaker

Caroline is Director of Culture and Engagement at Rubica. Her work sees her supporting leaders to create organisational understanding, belief and the behavioural shifts that are necessary for change to happen and last so it transforms a business. Learn more about Caroline.


Section 1: Culture and its influence on company performance

00.08     How culture influences success

Company culture can have a huge influence on business performance. It’s widely accepted that it can be a companies greatest competitive advantage.

In particular it can have a real stabilising effect, in times of disruption or business challenge. When things are getting tough, it can be the glue that helps people stay connected to the organisation’s strategy and purpose and to each other.

So, for example culture can support business continuity. It can enable increased discretionary effort. And it can enable the retention of people even when times are very tough and difficult.

00.46     Leaders conscious and subconscious influence on culture

Leaders influence culture both consciously and subconsciously. So, leaders may be aware of the sorts of behaviours that they want to role model, or they may talk eloquently about the sorts of behaviours they expect in others. But it can sometimes be those subconscious behaviours and things that actually have the biggest impact on business performance. So, the signals, the signs, what they are actually paying attention to, and where they are focusing their priorities, that drive where other people in the organisation might focus theirs.

Leaders therefore need to be really aware of the culture they are trying to create and enable. Bring some of that subconscious stuff out so that the culture ultimately doesn’t manage them.

Section 2: Initiating a change to a company’s culture

00.08     Where to start with changing a company culture

If a business recognises that it needs to change its culture, a great place to start is simply by making sure that the cultural aspiration, the ideal culture that they are thinking of, is absolutely born out of strategic need.

So, it needs to come from a place where people understand that there is a compelling and urgent reason to have things be different.

Creating that into a great story that helps everyone in the organisation understand the need to be different, and understand that future aspiration is the first and most critical part of any culture change.

00.48     Effectively enabling a change in culture

Once you’ve started on a journey to change a culture to enable better business performance, the first thing you need to do is look at what behaviours are going to be the best demonstration of that future culture.

So, come up with the behaviours that are most likely to effect change essentially.

You then need to ruthlessly prioritise that list of behaviours so that we have only 1 or 2 – the ones that are most likely to make that difference that you are trying to create. Not least because people can’t cope with more than 1 or 2 changes especially when it comes to behaviours.

We need to make sure those behaviours are measurable. So, if we can’t measures those behaviours, we won’t know if they are happening, and we won’t know if change is being effected.

Section 3: Embedding a culture change

00.07     What it takes to fulfil your cultural vision

To practically implement the changes to fulfil the cultural vision, start with practising what you intend to preach. So, it’s actually possible to change culture immediately, because we are the culture.

So, we can choose to leave the room that day and start experimenting with the behaviours we’ve defined, so that people in the organisation experience something positively different from you straight away.

00.35     Encouraging others to embrace a change in culture

Seek out the bright spots in an organisation. So, find those places where positive beliefs already exist and where behaviours are in line with the cultural aspiration – the vision that you’ve set out. They will exist and if you can find them and amplify them it is a powerful way to accelerate the culture change.

To support teams to embrace the cultural vision, and to move in the direction of the change you are trying to create, you can use measures. So, not to judge but to connect the cultural direction to business performance and help orientate people around what is expected of them and what is important to the organisation. It is a great tool to inspire people as well as to understand where the change is happening.

01.32     Role-model and reinforce the right behaviours

Teams and functions can be supported by offering them formal signals, reward, recognition, focus, attention that indicates the behaviours they are displaying are the ones that you want them to display and that supports and encourages them to display them more often and in more places.

Create beacons in the organisation, these are people who are influential within the organisation. They may not have hierarchical power, but they do get listened to when they speak by their peers. These people can be fabulous cultural role-models, and can help the change accelerate through the organisation at pace.

02.13     Advice

The one piece of advice that I’d share to any business looking to create a winning culture is to make sure that when designing that future culture – that ideal culture – it is firmly rooted in business performance and the organisational strategy. So that culture becomes integral, it’s part of delivering the strategy and not a side order or bolt-on to the real order of business.

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