Lately I have been conducting training sessions in change management to some corporate organisations.
One thing that keeps coming up in this training is the complexity of leading corporate change. Many corporate leaders overlook the importance of organisational culture in change management.
Understanding corporate culture
Culture is the sum total of the learned patterns, beliefs, information processing and sense-making shared by organisational members that influence and guide their behaviour and practices. Changing a culture — what people think and how they behave — is not a straightforward task.
One approach that can help organisations to improve their culture is a set of core values, supported by defined behavioural statements that clearly articulate the beliefs and principles that the organisation wants its people to share and embrace. Culture determines what employees consider appropriate behaviour and how they interact with each other. It influences how individuals, working groups and organisations plan, execute and manage their work. In this way, it helps determine the speed and efficiency with which work is completed. Culture also helps determine how receptive or resistant an organisation will be to change. As we see it, the right culture can equip an organisation for success in times of growing volatility and accelerating disruption.
According to the business dictionary, organisational culture includes an organisation’s expectations, experiences, philosophy, as well as the values that guide member behaviour, and is expressed in member self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world, and future expectations.
Organisational culture creation
Business leaders are vital to the creation and communication of their workplace culture. However, the relationship between leadership and culture is not one-sided. While leaders are the principal architects of culture, an established culture influences what kind of leadership is possible (Schein, 2010).
Leaders must appreciate their role in maintaining or evolving an organisation’s culture. A deeply embedded and established culture illustrates how people should behave, which can help employees achieve their goals.
Person, market culture
How members of an organisation conduct business, treat employees, customers, and the wider community are strong aspects of person culture and market culture. Person culture is a culture in which horizontal structures are most applicable. Each individual is seen as more valuable than the organisation itself. This can be difficult to sustain, as the organisation may suffer due to competing people and priorities (Boundless, 2015). Market cultures are results-oriented, with a focus on competition, achievement, and “getting the job done” (ArtsFWD, 2013).
Adaptive, adhocracy culture
The extent to which freedom is allowed in decision-making, developing new ideas and personal expression are vital parts of adaptive cultures and adhocracy cultures. Adaptive cultures value change and are action-oriented, increasing the likelihood of survival through time (Costanza et al., 2015).
Adhocracy cultures are dynamic and entrepreneurial, with a focus on risk-taking, innovation, and doing things first (ArtsFWD, 2013).
Power, role hierarchy culture
How power and information flow through the organisational hierarchy and system are aspects of power cultures, role cultures, and hierarchy cultures. Power cultures have one leader who makes rapid decisions and controls the strategy. This type of culture requires a strong deference to the leader in charge (Boundless, 2015). Role cultures are where functional structures are created, where individuals know their jobs, report to their superiors, and value efficiency and accuracy above all else (Boundless, 2015). Hierarchy cultures are similar to role cultures, in that they are highly structured. They focus on efficiency, stability, and doing things right (ArtsFWD, 2013).
Task, clan culture
How committed employees are towards collective objectives are parts of task cultures and clan cultures. In a task culture, teams are formed with expert members to solve particular problems. A matrix structure is common in this type of culture, due to task importance and the number of small teams in play (Boundless, 2015). Clan cultures are family-like, with a focus on mentoring, nurturing, and doing things together (ArtsFWD, 2013).
Corp culture, climate diagnostic
A clear understanding of the internal dynamics and issues already present within an organisation is critical in order to design and execute a meaningful change plan.
Organisational change can create challenges for people as they work to become functionally competent on new systems and processes. This transition necessitates the development of new thinking around leadership and culture as they impact the contextual environment of people who require new tools, skills, and behaviours in order to adjust to the new system.
Fortunately, many of these risks can be mitigated by proactively and thoughtfully working to inform and engage people in the process and by taking a holistic approach to navigating this change.
Robert Mandeya is an executive leadership coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Institute of Leadership, Research and Development (LiRD). — firstname.lastname@example.org/www.lird.co.zw.