Rapid Culture Change, part two . . .

 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!

Developer Mike Cohn detailed the Salesforce.com culture change in a book, Succeeding with Agile :

“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 . . .

About johnrchildress

John Childress is currently Visiting Professor in Strategy and Culture at IE Business School in Madrid and a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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