Major change management projects in organisations require an understanding of the culture of the company, and the way that culture may actively resist any changes.
There are ten major cultural components that will affect a company’s ability to change.
1. Rules and Policies
Some of the company’s rules and policies may, for example, tie staff down to specific jobs at specific times, or mean that specific functions have to be done on specific times, or tie staff down to operating only within a narrow band of responsibilities. The way to foster change here is to eliminate rules and policies that hinder change management and create new ones that reinforce the desired way of operating. i.e. develop and document new SOP’s.
2. Goals and Measurement
The stated company goals, and the way those goals are measured, may mean that the company is focussed only on those goals, to the hindrance of seeing new opportunities or developing new ways of measuring company achievements. To implement successful change management, the company should develop goals and measurements that reinforce the desired changes.
3. Customs and Norms
The customs of the company may get in the way of change. “We do it this way because we’ve always done it this way” is a standard cry in many companies. Rigid methods may be hindering change management, for example, an over-emphasis on strict lines of reporting, or slavish reliance on written reports and minute taking. To foster change, it may be necessary to replace old ways of doing things that reinforce the old ways with new customs and norms. Eg replacing written reports with face-to-face meetings.
Company training plans may only train staff in areas that reinforce existing company ways of doing things. To foster change, it may be that the company should replace training that reinforces the old way of doing things with new training and think about developing experiential training that provides real-time, hands-on experiences with new processes and procedures.
5. Ceremonies and Events
Areas like committee meetings, AGMs and staff meetings all have an effect on company culture, as to any company organised events, whether it be “team-building” exercises or just regular organised outings. They all serve to give both staff and people outside the company a view of “what the company is like”, a corporate image if you like. If change is required, the company should try to put in place ceremonies and events that reinforce the new ways, and recognise individual and team contributions to making the changes work.
6. Management Behaviours
The company management might be tied into behavioural routines linked with historical ways of working. To foster change, a company should publicly recognise and reward managers who change by linking promotion and pay to the desired behaviours. ( And the opposite often applies. Companies fostering change often do not promote or pay increases to managers who do not come on board. )
7. Rewards and Recognition
The current staff assessment schemes in a company may be leading to rigid hierarchies, or maybe fostering one area of competence over another eg a performance management system that measures only individual behaviour will undermine any attempts to inculcate a culture of teamwork. A company determined to foster change should make rewards specific to the change goals that have been set and ensure that the performance management system recognises and rewards the desired ways of operating and does not simply reinforce the old ways.
The company communications strategy, both internal to the company, and external to clients, media and the public, may be highly resistant to change, and may again be tied to the companies corporate image. Change in this area can be expensive, but companies that require to make changes will have to deliver communications in new ways to show commitment to change. And when change is being made, it is advisory to use multiple channels to deliver consistent messages at all stages during the transition, before, during and after.
9. Physical environment
This is a big area where change is resisted. Staff like their “nest” areas, and like to feel secure in their workplace. If a company is determined to make changes, they need to pay particular attention to this and make sure the physical environment reflects the change in a way that makes the staff comfortable. If knowledge and information sharing is the goal, they should get people out of offices and into open, shared areas. If they want them to talk to their customers, they should create ‘virtual’ offices so that people are encouraged to work outside the office with customers.
10. Organizational structure
Rigid hierarchies can work against change, and people at the top of the tree don’t like having the branches rattled. Many companies in the modern business world have found this to be a hard area to make flexible, but if an operational change is to happen in a company, there will, of necessity, need to be organisational change. The way to make it happen is to make sure that structure reinforces the operational changes. Combine overlapping divisions; re-organize around customers as opposed to functions.
In summary, all the above cultural areas have to be taken into account if a change is required in a company, and they all have an effect, in different ways in different companies, in resisting attempts at such change.
Make sure you understand them before implementing any big decisions, otherwise you might not be in business long enough to regret it.