Planning for Organisational Culture Change

Posted by: Nigel Girling Post Date: 12th June 2015

Planning for Organisational Culture Change

Sometimes it becomes apparent that the current way of doing things in an organisation isn’t in line with plans for future success, and that organisational culture change is needed.

Culture runs through every aspect and layer of an organisation, making attempts to achieve permanent results by altering a single feature hopeless. Organisational culture change is a long and complicated process, and one that takes considerable planning. Here we take a look at the specific issues involved in planning to change your culture.

What is your culture?

Before you can even begin to consider organisational culture change, you need a clear understanding of the current culture. The first step is conducting some form of cultural evaluation, and the hard work starts after you have the results.

There isn’t time to look at the full range of cultural diagnostic tools here, and an in-depth study of the range of organisational culture models is part of our leadership and management programmes.

One of the most popular tools is The Culture Web, which Johnson and Scholes used to identify a paradigm of working culture, looking at the following aspects of an organisation:

  • The stories it tells about itself, and those others tell about it
  • Common rituals and routines
  • The symbols that represent the company visually, including logos, working environment, and dress code
  • Control systems, from financial to quality
  • Power structures, and the strategic direction these generate

When you’ve got results from your cultural evaluation, it’s time to think about interpreting them. What do they really tell you about morale, attitudes, climate, commitment and performance in your organisation? What do they tell you about relationships between leaders and staff?

These are some of the most important indicators, and you need to be sure you have some insights and can draw some conclusions about each of them.

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Your vision for organisational culture change

Before you can plan to change your culture, you need to have a clear idea of what you’d like it to be, and ensure the transition makes sense from your current position.

While this seems pretty obvious, I’ve seen many leaders and organisations go off at a tangent on a culture change programme they’ve read or heard about, without really understanding those two key start and end points.

You need to create a vision of the ‘promised land’ you want to reach, which you will be able to express in a compelling way, and in ways that people at all levels will understand. A good way to create a vision that is realistic is to use the same tool you used in the previous step, keeping where you are now in mind when painting your picture for the future.

Are you ready to make the change?

When you have an understanding of your current organisational culture, and have set out a vision for the future, it’s time to look at whether organisational culture change is practical right now.

Does your diagnosis suggest to you that there is the appetite for the change? Do your leaders really believe in it? Are they ready to persuade and engage your people in making the change, and do they have the tools and the skills needed to do so?

Planning to make the change

If you decide that organisational culture change is realistic, there are still likely to be barriers to making the change. Using the same tool to diagnose your current culture and to set our your future vision allows you to identify barriers at each step of the way, and put together a plan for tackling them.

Take each obstacle, and consider the key steps you need to take to dismantle or reverse it, including what resources you need and when, initiatives or projects that need to be implemented, and who will lead them. It’s essential that you have a strategy for integrating actions for organisational culture change into ‘business as usual’, so that the business continues to function throughout the upheaval.

When planning organisational culture change, the key, above all else, is to spend the time beforehand thinking, discussing, engaging colleagues, and planning the whole process, before ‘pressing the button’.

Planning and implementing organisational culture change is covered extensively on our leadership and management courses. To find out more, get in touch below.

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