Managing Cultural Change

When management acts to focus explicit structures, work design, staffing and development, and performance system/rewards on desired changes, the combined impact can be tremendous. Through management action, the culture can be changed to support the business strategy. Management communication of the company mission, vision, values, and strategic objectives is only the first step in the process.

Top executives must promulgate a vision; however, a brilliant vision statement won’t budge a culture unless it is backed up by action. The management system has to be put in place, and then management has to live by it. Culture is not something managers set out to change directly; rather, it is an outcome of consistent, positive management action, every day and in every way. Too often good strategic ideas and directions are translated too narrowly into plans. There are many examples, including quality of work life, participative management, quality circles, and service excellence. Even broadly conceived total quality management efforts risk faltering because they are being implemented as programs, rather than as broad, deep, multi-faceted activities.

The problem is not the association of an idea, with a program, but rather the existence of too few programs expressing the idea. Changes take hold when they are reflected in multiple concrete manifestations throughout the organization. It is when the structures surrounding a change also change to support it that we say a change is institutionalized—that it is now part of legitimate and ongoing practice, infused with value and supported by other aspects of the system.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. jshowkeir
    Mar 25, 2010 @ 23:46:34

    Hello Asif,
    Good to see that others are paying attention to culture in organizations. I must say that I respectfully disagree with two points in this piece.

    1. “Culture is not something managers set out to change directly; rather, it is an outcome of consistent, positive management action, every day and in every way.”

    The first half of the thought I believe to be true. I don’t believe that it is an outcome of management action. Culture is manifest in the conversations people have in organizations. How people talk about the future, aligning self-interest with community interest, plans, projects and desired outcomes. Everyone through the formal and informal conversations, supports or changes a belief about these and many other things.

    2. “The problem is not the association of an idea, with a program, but rather the existence of too few programs expressing the idea.”

    I have been in OD for 30 years one thing my experience tells me is that programs are not the answer. Programs have a beginning, middle and end – so do projects. I believe the shift is in how we think, act and talk about who we want to be as an organization in the world and align everything on that. This is a very difficult change in organizations that are mature.

    Thanks for stimulating thinking on this topic. j

    Reply

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