Essential Tips Regarding Changing Organizational Culture (Part Two)

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Here is the follow-up to our two-part series on coping with organizational culture change.  waveuntil we’ve caught up on the history of the endeavor.  If that describes your situation as a reader, you may want to check out our previous post before continuing!

5. Recognize that some people will not change.

Jim Collins, in Good to Great, one of the most popular and convincing management books ever, stressed the importance of “having the right people on the bus” and, likewise, of getting the wrong people off the bus.  A culture change effort needs to be led by those who have the skills to motivate and who exemplify the new values and behaviors, the assistance of outside consultants  generally is needed, and the cooperation of everyone involved is necessary.

But, just as some patients who will not eliminate bad habits, there always will be people who will not fit into the new culture; and it is important that they not be in a position to retard or block the change effort.  That is not a call for the axe: if the change is well done, they will see that by themselves and the organization can help them another situation where they will be useful and content.

6.  Don’t make it a campaign with a name and advertising

Glenn Allen’s Nameless Organizational Change is not a very well known volume, but it makes a very important point.  It is common for change to “commoditized” and given a name – “Project SMART,” say.

Not a good idea! An advertising campaign is not the way to change culture.  There has to be engagement, not propaganda.  Glenn himself has told how he got consulting work by telling those leading such a campaign, “Let me guess what they are calling SMAR T.  Stupid, moronic, asinine, ridiculous and terrible?”

7. Support from the top is essential.

It is possible for initiatives stemming from the lowest level to lead to organizational culture change.  However, if those at the top of the organization are not supportive – and do not model the new behaviors that called for – it won’t work.  A healthcare analogy: the head and heart both have to support the new regimen; a patient who is only verbally committed to change won’t do it.

8. Motivation and engagement are the keys.

In Leading Change, John Kotter says that there must a “burning platform” to motivate the change.  At the same, he notes that fear is not a good motivator.  To overcome inertia, too, excitement is needed. Satisfied patients do better: so do satisfied employees.

9. Do not suppress, but rather embrace, resistance.

When change is being made, some people are bound to resist.  Those leading the efforts frequently look at these “troublemakers” as doctors might look at germs.  Indeed, traditional change management literature generally had a chapter on “overcoming resistance”.

A more modern and better approach is to see resistance as helpful in a diagnostic sense.  A sick person may vomit on a doctor, who, however, can use that substance to determine what the ailment is.  Passive acceptance can be even worse than resistance, because it means that people are going through the motions but not really on board.

10. Don’t lose hope.

In even the best of efforts, there will be moments when things don’t appear to be going well.  But it is important not to despair, just as patients are who are too discouraged are less likely to improve.

And even there it outright failure, you can gain from the learning experience.  It must be admitted, however, that a common by product of organizational change efforts is improvement in resume skills by employees.

jim murphyJim Murphy has a solo consulting practice called Management 3000, focusing on organizational development and change management. Formerly he led the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group, was Human Resources Director for the City of Boston Assessing Department, and served as a consultant with the Boston Management Consortium.  His consulting practice includes management coaching as well as research and writing on employee relationships, leadership, healthcare and collaborative practices.  Having produced newsletters for several organizations  and being a frequent content writer for the”Confident Voices in Healthcare” blog, he is interested in writing and research opportunities, as we all consulting and coaching.



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