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Topics: Quality
How easy is culture change in an Organisation
Its been pretty challenging to persue this Culture change exercise of mine in this Organisation. As a Quality manager, its been quite disappointing to see that even the senior managers who once felt there is a great need for Change in the way we do things are not just co-operating. Any Tips on how to persue this initiative??
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One major thing to remember is that real culture change takes years, 3 – 5 years is common, so make sure your expectations are realistic.

If the problem is that they are not doing what they said they were going to do, then check another of our Workforce Management discussions, “Methods of Gaining Commitment,” especially the comments of Michael Wood and Frank Patrick.

Senior managers may be ready for change; they may just not be ready for the duties associated with making it happen – something totally different. Do you know of any specific Organizational Change Management training these senior managers have had? If it likely that they have not been prepared, then your next steps are clear: act as an internal consultant to them.

Anticipate their individual problems with commitment to the change and help them work through them. Use negotiation and good interaction skills, your new tools as Champion of Culture Change (Title optional on resume). Remind them of the benefits they wanted to realize from change. Assist them with communicating the vision effectively and often. Help them develop positive reinforcement for behavioral change and minimize negative impacts of changing. Act as a department-neutral business performance enhancement resource.

Check my Organizational Change Management area in the Workforce Management Department for more links, articles and ideas.

Thanks, Joe, for the mention.

Culture is the set of perceptions, policies, and behaviors that characterize the "way things are done around here." Nothing is harder to change in a management team than the perceptions that got them up the ladder to where they are.

In order to move such people to change, there must be something in it for them. They must see a benefit at the end of their efforts. Benefit comes from the solution of a problem. They must therefore be brought to see the "current culture" as the root of their problems.

The issue is, however, that culture being the accumulation of long-held, deeply-held perceptions, it is too often a situation similar to fish not knowing that they are wet. If that's the case, they need to be carefully and consciously moved to this understanding of the situation.

I have worked with a variety of organizations -- project teams, departments, and whole companies -- facilitating a surprisingly quick and easy approach to getting this agreement on 1) what to change.

Only then can they be moved further through the other "layers of resistance..." 2) Lack of agreement on a direction for the change. 3) Lack of agreement on the details of the change. 4) Concern that the change won't create new (and maybe worse) side-effects. 5) Blockaged by obstacles (This is where PM comes in). 6) Lack of agreement to proceed.

For an overview of the process I can help you through, check out my paper on "Taking Advantage of Resistance to Change" and feel free to follow up with me here or offline (use the profile found under my name to the left of this post to get my email address).

Some wonderful advice so far. Allow me to add a few thoughts.
As one might imagine, people and organizations prefer to stay in a predictable and stable state. When change occurs to any organism, that organism will make internal adjustments to keep change to a minimum. It will try to keep a sense of balance and reject forces that cause stress. Science calls this state homeostasis, the self-regulating of life processes.

People need leverage to change. It is not enough that they see the good in the change. If that were so, then we would all be in perfect physical condition. To overcoming an organization’s current way of doing can be done in two basic ways.

The first is brute force. This occurs when there is a management change at the top, a crisis or some other major event that leaves no choice but to change. Under this scenario people change or leave. Amazingly enough, when this type of change happens at a national level people seem to rally and make things work (9/11 for example). But for the most part this is the least desirable way to affect change in an organization.

The best way to affect change with the least amount of organizational upheaval is to condition the organization over time. This is a process that begins with the leadership developing a vision of a new organizational state that is compelling and desirable. This new vision should be logical and yet appeal to the collective emotions of the rank and file of the company. This means it must have an end point, a way to measure when the vision has been achieved. The next step is to facilitate the organization’s knowledge base to define where those who do the work and add the value see opportunities for improving the way things are done. In essence the work force defines what would have to change in order for the organization to achieve the vision. I have found that facilitation small cross functional teams that participate in a single end-to-end process provides the best context and forum for defining improvement opportunities.

The result of the facilitation effort is a Gap Analysis that defines WHAT must happen in order to achieve the vision. But something else is happening as well. Through this process, people are being slowly introduced to the idea that the vision is achievable. They have contributed to the effort and have begun to build a stake in the vision. They can begin to see how their specific situation would be impacted by the change. In short, they are retraining their minds to accept a new way of doing things. They are creating leverage for themselves.

Hope this helps
Good Suggestions folks. Will keep you posted about the happennings.
Been there, done that. Be prepared for the long haul and set management's expectations accordingly. True organizational change is not implemented, it is adopted. The plan to get people within the organization to adhere to the precepts of a new culture is what is implemented. A top-down approach to changing culture is the way to start in a large organization. Senior management must be willing to champion the cause, not just talk about it. Once you have senior management buy-in, you will need to "lead from the middle" where the ideals of a culture practiced. Just because the CIO says something is good does not mean that the rest of the organization is going to fall in line. You will need to gain the commitment of the people whose daily lives will change when the culture does. You can start with a new and visible project to get the ball rolling and gain some success. Also, gain commitment to funnel all new ideas, concepts, projects, etc. through the new way of doing business. Use the hard check/soft check method of doing things. Some projects will sign up to change because they see immediate benefits from it, or because they are a natural fit. Anyone who does not volunteer initially can be put into soft check, which allows for those groups to schedule (within reason) changes to work smoothly with their existing commitments, minimizing negative impact. As for the rest, they will be put into hard check (thank goodness there are not too many of these). For these groups, change is painful because brute force usually is, and there is possibly no direct benefit to them to adopt a new way of doing things. These are the "If it ain't broke dont't fix it, and even if it is broke, we've already worked out what to do about it" folks. They are also the "We'll make all these changes and end up with the same thing we had to start with" folks. They will change because the rest of the organization has already changed. Save these for last if you can.

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