What You Pay Attention To Matters
Leadership has transformed over the last few years. It will continue to transform as leaders face unprecedented complexity and change both externally and internally in their organizations. This series of articles titled “The Leadership Blueprint” offers a blueprint on critical elements of leadership that leaders can adopt and adapt to their organizational contexts. The series focuses on essential functions of leadership, including driving digital transformation, leading people, harnessing data, driving culture change, and concentrating on the future. This article offers five tried and tested tactics you can use to cultivate organizational culture change.
What Is Culture Change, And Why Is It Important?
Culture change is part and parcel of a successful digital transformation. As a leader, you will need to be involved in both. Research by the Boston Consulting Group  revealed that leaders and organizations focused on culture change were five times more successful in their digital transformation efforts. Therefore, culture change is critical, and as a leader, you have a responsibility to cultivate it and ensure employees are empowered to embrace and drive cultural changes themselves. Research by MIT Sloan Management Review  asserts that post-pandemic organizations have changed tremendously in three ways: how they adopt digital technologies, develop new business models, and implement new ways to work. The underlying glue in all of these changes is culture. Culture consists of the beliefs, words, and actions the people interacting with your organization see, feel, hear, and live. Culture is so critical to an organization that business management luminary Peter Drucker once said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This maxim holds today because organizations that disregard their culture will likely fail in the long run, even though they may have the most comprehensive strategy in place.
As A Leader, Which Of Your Actions Can Cultivate Culture Change?
As a leader, you are responsible for monitoring your organizational culture closely and cultivating culture change. Often, leaders may not be able to detect whether the culture in their organization is working or not because they are too close to the decision-making mechanisms. A great way to take a pulse check in culture is to talk to new hires and junior employees as they have a clearer perspective on the organizational culture and how it affects them. Edgar Schein is considered the “father” of organizational culture. In his book Organizational Culture and Leadership, he discusses that several actions leaders take every day can significantly influence, cultivate, and change the culture in their organizations. This article highlights five of these actions you already take and deciphers how you can leverage them to facilitate culture change.
What You Monitor And Measure
As a leader, what you pay attention to, monitor, and measure can shape the culture in your organization. The more consistent and continuous your monitoring is, the stronger the influence on the culture of your organization. For example, if you highlight that the customer experience is critical for the organization and you monitor the Net Promoter Score of crucial products and services on a consistent basis, and ask that everyone in your organization, starting from the leadership team to the junior employees does the same, you send a message of leading by example. Soon, you will notice that Net Promoter Scores will likely rise as employees across the organization begin monitoring and taking action to improve the customer experience.
Where You Allocate Resources
The way your organization sets and articulates budgets reflects the performance and state of transformation in your organization. Your beliefs about the critical drivers of performance in your organization can make a significant statement with the decisions you make as you approve or disapprove budgets and allocate resources which, in turn, can shape the culture of the organization. To make the right decisions on where to allocate resources in your organization, you will need to review data from the perspective of the customer: which products do they value the most based on survey feedback, sales, and other customer-product interaction data, and with which products do they spend the most time with? Such information can illuminate where you need to allocate your organization’s scarce resources, and your decisions can, in turn, impact organizational culture.
How You React To Crises
As a leader, the way you react to crises can influence the culture of your organization. A great example of this is how the CEO of Pfizer, Dr. Albert Bourla responded to the pandemic and successfully led his team to develop the COVID vaccine in 9 months instead of 9 years. In his book Moonshot, he discusses how he was under pressure and sometimes raised his voice without realizing how much that impacted his team. Later he acknowledged the cultural difference, apologized, and ensured that he calmly articulated his perspective and concerns. The change in his behavior alleviated some of the already heightened anxiety within the team and empowered them to also speak their minds in a calm manner. This approach facilitated team performance and the subsequent success of creating the COVID vaccine.
Who And What You Reward
As a leader, you can model the behaviors, beliefs, values, and assumptions about success in the organization. However, to influence organizational change, you must also empower the team to build programs that align with these behaviors, beliefs, values, and assumptions and reward, promote, and recognize people and teams who exhibit them.
How You Stay Ahead Of Change
The way you cultivate your own growth mindset and embrace lifelong learning can set an example for your organization and impact a change in the organizational culture. You can create a monthly podcast where you share your vision, ideas, and approaches to open a dialogue with your team and the broader organization. You can also publish your annual or semiannual reading list and share some of the books and authors that influence, inspire, and challenge your thinking and encourage your team and all employees to do the same.
As a leader, you can play a significant role in cultivating culture change, starting from some of your everyday actions, including what you monitor and measure, where you allocate resources, how you respond to crises, who and what you reward, and how you stay ahead of change. By being more mindful of these crucial actions, you can significantly and positively impact culture change in your organization.