Culture Change Plan

In the book, Bare Bones Change Management: What you shouldn’t not do, Bob Lewis explained the seven must-have elements for any change management effort to have a chance of succeeding. Here are my takeaways from one of the topics discussed in the book.

Bob defined the word “Culture” by borrowing a definition from the field of Cultural Anthropology. Culture is the learned behavior people exhibit in response to their environment. In an organization, culture essentially is how employees respond to their environment, which means every organization has a culture.

Bob suggested practicing the art of describing every cultural trait in both positive and negative terms. With very few exceptions, cultural responses are neither good nor bad in any absolute sense. Mostly, they are good fits for some circumstances; but they can also be bad fits for other circumstances.

The first step in changing a culture is to characterize the culture. Bob believes there are seven situations where the organizational culture matters:

  • Crisis
  • Externally identified performance issue
  • Internally identified performance issue
  • Day-to-day work
  • Work style
  • Problem analysis
  • Loyalty

An organization will usually respond to each situation in two ways, positive and negative.

The second step of changing culture is to designate which cultural traits matter for a change, and how the participants must change. Again, the organization leaders will have to look at all seven situations above and determine what desired cultural response is required to support the change.

Since culture is the learned behavior employees exhibit in response to their environment, Bob believes that organizations can better manage their change initiative by managing the following environments effectively.

  • Physical environment
  • Communication environment
  • Leadership

It is critical for an organization to determine how leader behaviors have led to the current culture, and how it must change to encourage the desired culture.