Every organization develops both a conscious and an accidental culture. Its conscious culture unfolds from the written and spoken goals, values, behaviors, and practices that are taught, measured, and reinforced in the organization. However, think about where you work:
Are particular behaviors and norms that are not in writing passed on from one generation to the next, from one employee to the next? This is called the accidental culture. It emerges from the unwritten and unspoken values, behaviors, and practices to which everyone knows they should adhere. When asked about this culture, no one can articulate where it is written; they just recognize it, as if by symbiosis. This accidental culture is revealed with seeming randomness over the course of the organization’s history. Collectively, a conscious culture and an accidental culture permeate every nook of every organization. And in both forms, the organizational culture has the power to positively and negatively influence the actions of leaders and the performance of employees along with the retention and attraction of employees and customers, many train themselves in sfweekly.com for writting and other skills. A conscious culture has many benefits:
- Leaders more rapidly assimilate to the culture.
- Employees more quickly understand the range of acceptable behaviors.
- Recruitment is made easier.
- When there is a lack of fit, it is easier to identify and take action.
- The likelihood of successful integration in the case of a merger or acquisition increases.
- And most important, systemic change is easier because there is no battle between the conscious and accidental cultures.
So, how can leaders assess and enable a more consciously defined culture? It’s not easy; in fact it may very well be the most difficult task an organization can tackle. To meet this challenge, we recommend that these four steps, which have been tried and tested many times, to shift your organization’s culture:
- Identify the existing culture
- Facilitate what to keep, what to eliminate, and what to add
- Revisit core purpose and values
- Communicate and reinforce the conscious culture
Here is a high level summary of each step:
Step 1: Identifying the Existing Culture
When identifying the existing culture, due consideration should be given to the negative influences that result from fear, anger, and other emotions that might emerge. These should be replaced with positive behaviors and systems that motivate people and enhance performance. The importance of identifying both the written and spoken and also the unwritten and unspoken aspects of the culture cannot be overestimated. (If your organization merges, is acquired by, or acquires another organization, proper cultural blending is the only way to ensure success. To blend cultures and avoid cultural tensions, you can follow the same four steps being considered here. Make sure the organization’s culture aligns with its goals and primary purpose. Tension arises when there is a lack of alignment or when separate cultures are not appropriately blended.)
Step 2: Facilitating What to Keep, What to Eliminate, and What to Add
Once the organization’s existing culture has been documented, bring leaders together and decide what to keep, what to eliminate, and what to add to the organizational culture. In making these decisions, the organization’s core purpose and values—whose detailed considerations we discuss in the next step—are critically important as the key filter through which each aspect of the culture must pass. The conscious culture is continued and the positive parts of the accidental culture are added and the negative aspects are removed.
Step 3: Revisiting Your Core Purpose and Values
We surveyed more than 200 leaders, asking them for their advice on how to shift culture during turbulent times. They told us: “Revisit the core purpose, including core values, vision, and retrospect. Look back at exactly what went wrong, comparing circumstances with the initial vision and values. Identify which actions diverted from them, and build, reinforce, and reestablish values.”
A revisited, revised core purpose requires further consideration before it can be implemented. All leaders must choose whether or not to be on board. Those who opt out should negotiate an exit strategy. The upshot from changes in the core purpose that result in a turnover of leaders will be reorganization. There are good reasons for this to happen: It ensures that the leaders who are aligned with newly defined boundaries are the ones who end up leading. This reduces the chances of people feeling that there are favorites who are allowed to remain even if they are not aligned.
Now it’s time to revisit and adjust core values. Current organizational environments are filled with people who fear stepping forward to expose issues, concerns, and even potentially risky behaviors. We believe this necessitates the need for an additional core value—courage. This core value is especially crucial for the times in which we live. It entails being willing to stand up and speak for what you believe is right, even when it is the minority view; being willing to take calculated risks; being willing to learn from mistakes; and being willing to speak the truth, even to those above in the hierarchy.
Core values represent the essence of who you are and how you behave. Many believe they cannot be taught and rarely is there adherence measured. Defining values, setting the acceptable range of behavior, teaching that range and then measuring it is necessary in today’s highly complicated world of business. Standing by core values in difficult times is the best way for leaders to demonstrate their true character and that of their organization. This means having the courage to measure alignment and adherence, and to weed out those who violate them.
Step 4: Communicating and Reinforcing the Core Purpose and Values
With the revisited core purpose in hand, leaders on board or filtered out, and renewed energy, now is the time to properly implement change. At this point, there are a few words of caution to heed, because most change initiatives fail to stick. The reasons:
- The organization gives up in midstream.
- There are inconsistent messages.
- There is a lack of follow-through.
- There are attempts to measure the results too soon.
Summing Up the Four Steps for Shifting Culture
A significant change stemming from either positive or negative forces presents a unique opportunity for guiding the evolution of an organization’s culture toward one that is conscious. Success is achieved when the organizational culture has evolved to primarily embody conscious (written and spoken norms, behaviors, and practices) and less desirable accidental (unspoken and unwritten behaviors) have been left behind.