Stop Whining, Start Redesigning

(With Frank Wander)

Culture change is hard … takes too long … costs too much …

On and on it goes. The complaints about culture never seem to end. Like the weather, everyone talks about it, yet few do anything real about it.

The truth is you don’t need a weatherman to change culture. It’s been done many times before. And quickly. But if have to be willing to change the basic organizational model, because that’s what shapes emotional experience. In other words, the way to change culture is by making the soft stuff hard.

Paradoxically, the key to changing culture is behavioral, structural and systemic. As Richard Pascale once said, “Adults are much more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking than to think their way into a new way of acting.”

Here are just a few ways any leader can shape the cultural environment:

Empowerment, the opposite of control

  • Creating bigger jobs with more autonomy and distributed decision-making
  • Expanding spans of control, reducing layers of management
  • Changing the role of manager, from supervisor (baby sitter) to coach

Recognition, to reinforce achievement

  • Expanding variable compensation beyond senior management
  • Introducing systems and structures to encourage coworkers to recognize one another

Development, to tap personal interests and passions

  • Educating associates on the big picture – customer value and business performance
  • Redefining management work from baby-sitting to skill development
  • Providing feedback, both within and across organization boundaries
  • Communicating and reinforcing the organization’s mission

Motivation, to incent participation

  • Automating boring, repetitive tasks
  • Funding experiments, encouraging prudent risk-taking
  • Recognizing effort as well as success

Investment, to grow human capital

  • On-the-job training as skill requirements evolve
  • Advanced information tools to augment associate contributions
  • Job rotation to enhance end-to-end awareness, knowledge and coordination

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