Changing culture

26 08 2010

Every now and again I hear a new CEO say something like “my first task is to change the culture of this organisation”. My unspoken responses range from “good luck to you” to “probably your last task too!”

Don’t misunderstand me – a new CEO can do tremendous work changing some of the cultural assumptions in the organisation, as Lou Gerstner did when he switched of the OHP in his first staff meeting at IBM. His message: “from now on, you tell me what you have to say; don’t try hiding your lack of clarity with viewgraphs.”

The truth though is that changing culture takes a little longer than changing your clothes. That is because ultimately culture is a function of the suppositions, perceptions and learnt behaviours of the people concerned. If you really want to totally transform culture overnight you had better be ready to fire everyone in the organisation and install carefully selected replacements. Otherwise you need to budget significant time.

…And analysis. Because the question that often goes begging in these situations is “do I actually know what the culture is I am talking of changing?” And “is it the culture per se; or the way the culture handles its current circumstances – and its current leadership – that is really the issue?”

A little mapping and analysis can go a long way.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: