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.

Mobilizing Support for Change Managers


Despite using the principles of influence, social networks and negotiation, change efforts in an organization can falter for different reasons. There has been a great deal of interest in finding out why people are so unwilling to stop out of their comfort zones and accept change. Some of the major  impediments to change are:

  • People believing that the change effort is yet another fad: Over a period, many employees have come to perceive different change programs as fads because they associate these with previously failed initiatives. As a result, they do not pay attention to the merits of the arguments. Change induces dissonance, and people often reduce the resulting stress by reverting to previously held assumptions, beliefs, and behaviors.
  • People who believe that change agents are not credible: Employees tend to view the strength of the change idea by associating it with the person who advocates that position. In other words, if the change manager is credible, the idea is seen as convincing. On the other hand, when the manager is perceived as untrustworthy, people tend to reject the change ideas.
  • People who have difficulty unlearning old ideas and approaches: Most often, people do not know how to stop what they have already been doing. When they are faced with uncertainty and ambiguity, they feel a sense of loss of control and this leads them to persist with their existing methods and approaches.
  • People who have difficulty learning new patterns of behavior: When people face unfamiliar situations, they often fail to comprehend the complexities of the situation. They may also feel apprehensive that if they try out new behaviors and fail, they would attract criticism. Faced with a fear of failure and believing that change would make little difference, they may refuse to invest in learning new methods and approaches.
  • People who feel that change threatens their identity: When faced with crises or threats, people tend to uphold their pride rather than appreciating the learning challenge that it offers. There is great comfort in existing belief structures, as these constitute one’s personal identity. Any attempt to change behavior may be seen as a challenge to that identity. As a result, it generates resistance to change.

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, Line of Sight