Change Your Company Culture—Action
Beginning the Culture Development Process
Decide where you want to go and jump in. Learn about your company culture one step at a time, by working with the opportunities it presents. If you know where you are going it doesn't matter where you start.
There are many ways to develop a company's culture. All you need is the desire to have a better workplace and the decision to do something about it. You can do it as the CEO, as a mid-level manager, or as a supervisor. I've even seen first line employees deliberately change the culture in their work area.
What Would You Like to Change in Your Company's Culture?
You have probably already thought about what qualities you would like more of in your work area. You might want to change the workplace because there are problems, such as low morale, or strained relationships between employees and managers. Perhaps people aren’t speaking up enough at meetings, or there are problems with retention. Or it might be that everything is great, but you know it could be even better.
Take a moment now and write on a pad two lines that describe how you would like your company to be? Think back to previous work situations where you felt motivated and inspired. First thoughts are fine. This is not a test.
What you wrote is your goal, your guide as you develop your company culture.
Culture Change is About How, Not What
What managers do is largely determined by customers, markets, superiors, policies, technology, laws, and plans. Managers have little choice in those areas. But managers can choose how they do these things. Fortunately a company's culture is more determined by how things are done than by what is done.
The most direct way to build morale, motivation and productivity is to act in ways that support good values. These values may include trust, involvement, information, open communication, teamwork and support. Let's say you want people more involved because they will be more motivated and responsible. You might open up a decision to involve those affected. Or you might give people more information about customers or the financial statements of the company so they will see a bigger picture and therefore make better decisions and feel more connected.
Don’t think of culture change as a top-down, company-wide, red-carpet rollout, or you will create the very thing you do not want, resistance. Think small. Company cultures evolve when managers make small changes in the right direction, watch what happens, and then make more small changes based on what they learned.
This web-site has examples of the wide range of actions managers take to change their company culture—building the kind of workplace they want. Actions to develop the work place culture range from planned top-down efforts by the senior manager and the leadership team, to very informal actions, such as a supervisor getting more participation and involvement in a crew meeting. The article 18 Actions to Build Your Culture describes a few starting places.
Expect the Unexpected
Because the development of a culture is evolutionary, each step depends on what happened with the last one. Detailed plans, appropriate for operational issues, do not work for culture development. Be open and encourage good things when they happen.
Only when you start changing the culture will you understand it—what works, what doesn't work, what is appropriate, what you should leave alone, and what you should support. Go with the flow. Join with people's desire and willingness to build a better workplace.
Start Company-Wide, or Locally, but Start
The paper titled, The Formal Culture Change Process, outlines steps you can take as a business unit manager, whatever level that is—from the CEO to a division or plant manager, or a supervisor.
A manager or supervisor might choose a more informal approach to change his relationship with his team. For example he might modify his leadership style to be less directive and more of a coach, or he may open discussions at meetings to get ideas from his people and build commitment to the team's decision.
In this section we will look at the formal and the informal approaches. Any of the steps can be omitted, or added to, or otherwise modified, to suit your situation. When it comes to evolving a company culture, nothing is cut in stone. More often the richest opportunities reveal themselves after you have begun walking down the path. If you remain open, you will uncover new territories that delight and amaze.
Work With Readiness, not Against Resistance
Culture development work is like exploring unmapped territory. Sometimes you will speed on open plains, other times you'll confront unscalable cliffs. When you meet resistance, back off and try another route. For example, don't be put off if your managers are initially skeptical of you're intentions. If early on in the venture one of them says, "I don't have time for this. I have to get the goods out the door." be patient. See it as one way a person shows their natural ambivalence about change. Don’t let it derail you.
Enjoy the journey!
Buy the Book Behind this Website
Developing Your Company Culture, The Joy of Leadership, A Handbook for Leaders and Managers , by Barry Phegan, Ph.D.. This book is a 187 page goldmine of practical information, tools, and examples to help you build a more productive and satisfying workplace. For more information and to buy the book click on the image.
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