Conventional wisdom is not always wisdom.
Conventional wisdom in the world of culture change consulting suggests that it takes approximately 3 years to shift or reshape a culture. A corollary of this “rule” appears to be that the process needs to start with one small group, gain acceptance and then it will be easier to sell the rest of the organization on the value of culture change. Based on results, it works for the consultants (fees go on and on) but it rarely works for the organization, unless you have lots of time. And in today’s world, time is the enemy.
A few blog postings ago I wrote about the company that changed its culture overnight due to a fire that burned down its offices. They had no choice but to move and the CEO saw an opportunity to reconfigure the working patterns and business processes in order to put in place a more collaborative culture. Rapid culture change is possible.
Here’s another example: Salesforce.com.
Salesforce.com provides on-demand services for customer-relationship management and daily processes over 100 million transactions from its 2,100,000+ subscribers. Inside the company the services technology group is responsible for all product development. Salesforce.com has grown into a global powerhouse and like all fast growth organizations, at some point bureaucracy sets in and they begin to slow down.
Five years ago, Salesforce.com was no exception to this phenomenon. In its early years, the group was delivering an average of four major releases each year. By 2006, the pace had slowed to one major release a year.
Conventional wisdom suggests embarking on a measured “transformation” process to shift the culture of bureaucratic hierarchy, the aim being to develop more agility and speed. But the CEO, Marc Benioff, was never one for conventional wisdom. Instead, he decided to shift the core management process of the company, how they develop software and innovations, from traditional waterfall methods to the rapid-iteration processes of Agile and Scrum. And he wanted it all done at once! So he decided to go all out with change right across the whole organization, all at once!
“During the first year of making the switch, Salesforce.com released 94 percent more features, delivered 38 percent more features per developer, and delivered over 500 percent more value to their customers compared to the previous year. . . . Fifteen months after adopting Scrum, Salesforce.com surveyed its employees and found that 86 percent were having a ‘good time’ or the ‘best time’ working at the company. Prior to adopting Scrum, only 40 percent said the same thing. Further, 92 percent of employees said they would recommend an agile approach to others.”
As I have said for a long time, if you really want a sustainable culture change, redesigning business processes will shift behavior more rapidly and completely than culture change workshops that attempt to change behavior.
Process drives behavior!
Tight Lines . . .