Leadership Partners Blog

Culture Change Management

In the book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance Louis V. Gerstner, CEO of IBM during its dramatic turnaround in the 90′s, talks about the importance of culture as it relates either to the success or failure of companies.  When he took over IBM the culture was such that people moved slowly, didn’t think of new ideas, and were reluctant to change.  By the end of his tenure, the culture was described as fluid, dynamic, creative and energized.  Gerstner himself had a large impact on the culture but we clever in involving others so that the culture was adopted by people at all levels.  Culture driven from the top down, as many executives have experienced, often results in failure.  Gerstner learned how to involve people at all levels so that the new culture was their own.

Organization Culture Change Management refers to engaging people at all levels in the change but only after having provided them with the necessary skills and perspectives so that their ideas and suggestions have the same fundamental basis and include elements that improve both the conditions for people as well as the level of organization performance.  Cultures that are supportive and not productive -OR- cultures that are productive and not supportive fail to fully address the needs of people and organizations. Finally, such cultures must be created by the people who implement them rather than being handed down from the top.  Otherwise, no matter how good, the culture will encounter significant if not terminal resistance.  When given the right training and fundamentals, people are capable of creating a culture as good as any created by top level executives.  Having created this culture themselves insures the necessary levels of commitment for a rapid turnaround.

The Roger’s Group, Inc. was headed by an executive open minded enough to involve people at all levels in a culture change effort.  This effort began with the IT department and with their successes both in higher levels of commitment and measured performance spread to other areas of the company.  Within a period of two years, the company had moved from middle of the pack to top 5 on all critical financial indicators and the results obtained by the IT department were detailed on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Organization Culture Change can be managed.  We know how to manage it in a way that consistently delivers increases in financial performance and levels of engagement by people throughout the organization.  With a mid-West utility, our culture change efforts resulted in engagement scores by Gallup in the low 80′s, leading Gallup to conclude that they could do

nothing to improve the current culture at the company.  Having a methodology for managing culture change is important.  A track record of successful culture change management across a number of companies is also required for companies and their top executives to be willing to take what many consider as great chances/risks.

Read our case study on culture change management by clicking here.

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