Would it surprise you to know best-selling author Dan Pink says we spend 24 minutes of every hour trying to change something? 

Someone’s opinions, someone’s behaviors. Yet, Harvard Business Review suggests a staggering 70% of changes fail. Pretty bleak, huh? Change is happening faster, it’s more complex and far reaching than ever. And what about culture?

 Organisational culture has a disproportionately large effect on employees, with a whopping 58% of employees leaving a job or would consider leaving one if they felt the culture was unhealthy and negative.

 Throughout our lives, we can spend up to 80,000 hours at work. Scary. Isn’t it wise to ensure you have the right culture to ensure these hours are both productive and profitable?

 Society now demands not just money from our employers, but meaning.

We have found in this busy and hyper-connected world, the ability to manage change well, coupled with a healthy culture is what separates the sustainable from the short-lived.

 You just need to look at the exceptional results of Spotify, Toyota, South West Airlines, ING and Apple to see the benefits of investing in culture.

 Feedback from the Big 4 consulting firms indicates the majority of graduates regard an organization’s culture as a determining factor whether to join or not.

 It is critical to manage change well, the impacts of resistance can be crippling to the bottom line. Humans, as much as we don’t like to admit it, fear the unknown, they fear loss, love comfort zones, and may not see a clear benefit for the effort they’ll expend in learning how to do something differently.

 Drawing upon my change management experience, here are some tips if you want to change your culture.

  • Define the  ‘as is’ culture state – data gathering and analysis, focus groups, 1:1 interviews to gain an understanding of what the culture is today.
  • Define the ‘desired’ culture state – what do we want to be known for? How do we want people to feel when they walk in the door? How do we want them to describe what it’s like working here? Have we communicated the case for change consistently? Has it sunk in? How do we know? Create a shared understanding of what we want the culture to be tomorrow.
  • Gap analysis and action planning
    • Maximize leader impact – do we have  top down support? Have we secured an influential and credible Executive Sponsor? Do we have visible and active advocacy from each area in the business?
    • Operationalise the desired culture (making it real) – what visible indicators and behaviours demonstrate the desired culture state? Upping the “soft” skills, coaching program, high performance team deep dives, simple Do’s and Don’ts for people to follow, anchor new behaviors into day to day office rhythms.
  • Continuous improvement: measure, refine, deploy. How will we know when we get there? What culture traits metrics are relevant? Do we have a cross-disciplinary working group to identify misalignment with organisational processes, systems, etc. Are we continuously learning from culture leaders within and outside of our industry? Are we clear on what benchmarking we want to align with? Are we doing enough to cultivate a growth mindset? Questions such as these ensure you don’t remain static and are continuously driving your culture forward. 

If you are serious about culture, measuring once a year doesn’t cut it. The horse has bolted. It needs to be done quarterly, just like your financial highlights.

 By measuring regularly, you can see where you are making an impact, and where you are not, allowing you to refine and continuously improve how you engage your people.

 And lastly.. I urge you to think of culture like a garden. Why?

  1. Culture is created by people, organically
  2. Culture is a living thing, continuously growing and evolving
  3. While you can’t design culture, the elements that shape and mold it can be
  4. Culture must be tended to and regularly nurtured

 Some elements are beyond your control, such as geo-political forces and environmental factors, but in many ways it’s the people in the room, the gardeners, your people, who create the conditions that help or hinder a culture’s growth.

 By this, I mean processes, policies, shared values, your leadership style, the people you choose to hire or fire.

 What happens if you neglect a garden? It will either wither and die or overrun with weeds. Weeds are unethical behaviors, toxic people, destructive conflict, confusion and disengagement. So just like a garden, your culture needs ongoing care and nurturing if it is to grow and thrive.

 A healthy culture is key to continued, and even greater success.

 It doesn’t belong to one person, it doesn’t belong to the top leadership group, it’s something to share and co-create with your people.

 Make no mistake, there will be times when you are elbow deep in fertilizer, with a sore back, wiping sweat off your brow, cursing why you wanted to change the culture in the first place, but remember the flowers of the garden are worth it!

 The benefits are engaged people, climbing productivity, reduced attrition, recruiting and on-boarding costs trending downward.

 It’s only together, only by managing change effectively, and consistently evolving your culture, that you will create competitive advantage.