“When the rate of change on the outside is greater than the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” ~Jack Welch
There is a huge misconception at all levels of the business world that culture change is an initiative. An important initiative, but none the less another initiative. And as such it can be managed with professional tools just like any other business or strategic initiative.
Wrong! Do not pass GO, do not collect . . . .
This is one of the reasons why the majority of culture change programs fail to deliver and the percent of success, as discovered by numerous academic and consulting firm surveys, hovers around 20%!
Culture change is not an initiative, it is the enabler of all other initiatives!
Culture is the foundation for a business’s success or failure. Culture can be a business risk, as we have seen in the recent Volkswagen scandal, or the previous banking scandals and the BP oil rig disaster that claimed 11 lives. Or it can be a catalyst for success, as is evidenced with the phenomenal growth and continued success of Zappos.com, the online shoe retailer, which was built on a corporate culture of exceptional customer service and employee engagement.
But how to make culture and culture change the fundamental enabler for all other initiatives?
The answer lies in another important fact about culture that is often overlooked.
Corporate culture (and culture change) can’t be managed, it must be led.
Leadership is the fundamental and necessary ingredient in successful culture change. Without a shift in leadership behaviour, the activities of leadership and leadership work processes, there will be very little, if any, significant culture change. Lots of meetings, lots of PowerPoint decks, lots of workshops, lots of new posters and internal communications, even a fancy new vision and values, but little change.
If leadership sets the internal agenda and “organizations are shadows of their leaders“, then leadership development is a fundamental requirement for culture change and business improvement. But the sad fact is, as a result of the historical focus of business schools on finance, and the recent 8-year global economic downturn, most companies have eliminated internal leadership development programs as an unnecessary cost. Or if not, they just give it lip service or worse yet, outsource it.
Just as getting fit involves every aspect of one’s life (diet, exercise, nutrition, sleep, mental de-stressing, etc.), leadership development is a whole-organization process, not just a couple of external courses, then back to the same old work environment! If you are serious about fitness, you clean out the refrigerator and restock with healthy food. If you are serious about leadership, you change all the internal practices that have developed poor leadership habits inside the company (meetings and performance reviews, along with decision-making protocols are a great place to start).
The company with the best leaders wins! ~Jack Welch
According to a recent poll of over 1,200 global organizations, those companies with the best rated internal leadership also are excellent at delivering sustainable performance year after year.
Change your culture, change your performance. Build leadership, build a strong culture and lead the field.
Written and Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
John also writes thriller novels!