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How to Transform Company Culture to Optimize Performance

It needs to start at the workplace's foundation.

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By fizkes/Shutterstock
By fizkes/Shutterstock

Your organization’s culture permeates everything your organization is and does. If it’s vibrant, it attracts and keeps staff and customers. If it’s stagnant or toxic, it drives them away.

Leaders are well aware that their organization’s viability directly relates to its culture. Research shows that a whopping 92 percent of senior executives cite culture as a critical driver to their company, yet only 16 percent said their culture “is exactly where it should be.” While business leaders understand how culture transformation is a critical strategy for giving them a competitive edge, they tend to avoid embarking on it — because it involves risk, time and money.

Yet, people are an organization’s greatest asset, and leaders must create an environment where staff members feel they belong and can do their best work. Putting the time and effort into developing a culture that allows staff to work with the organization, not for it will result in less turn over, greater productivity, successful collaboration and buy-in to a shared vision.

A cultural evolution is a complex undertaking and isn’t something you hire a consultant to lead or that you buy off the shelf. It’s not an isolated series of posters, marketing statements or press releases. It’s a collectively defined value that embraces all team members as equals and invites immediate and creative feedback when processes or protocols hold anyone back.

If people within the organization don’t believe in the culture change, aren’t involved in it or simply don’t understand it, it will fail. To successfully prepare your organization for cultural evolution, put these things in place:

A sound business case for change. This will answer the “why this and why now?” questions and provide a foundation on which the activity required to deliver the change can be built. It’s not enough to simply say, “we need to change our culture.” There needs to be a sound rationale that people buy into.

Public accountability. A senior executive within the business who must throw his or her effort behind the activity and ensure it delivers what was promised in the case for change. This person will encourage all the other executives do their bit to ensure that the change happens.

A strong team. At the outset of the project, build a team to work collaboratively to deliver value (as outlined in the case for change) as quickly as possible to satisfy the needs of the organization. The team will be diverse and inclusive and may sometimes require external expertise to facilitate a process, followed by short bursts of inspiration, motivation and new thinking.

A strong vision and definition of the future state. To motivate and inspire a team and ensure that those using the outputs from the initiative understand what’s required of them, a vision, a set of values and a description of the future are required so that people understand what they’re asked to be a part of.

Clear, unambiguous communication. This should focus on the activities required to complete the initiative, but also on the personal change required to achieve success. I don’t mean an email or poster, in Comic Sans font pinned up on a noticeboard, but regular effort from those accountable for the cultural evolution.

Senior managers must model what they expect of others, hold everyone to the required behaviors and ensure they follow the new path forward. The goal is to inspire and motivate others across the organization to act as catalysts for continual change and to ensure that the culture never stagnates.

**Originally published at CEO World

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