Organizations are often like children. Some children grow up with great parents who intentionally care for, nurture, protect and guide their children so that they have the right kinds of values, they are able to communicate effectively, and all of the children play well together.
Some organizations however have absentee parenting. The organization is started…it could be a business or possibly a non-profit but there is no one setting goals, no instructions, little care for the employees and while jobs get done (paychecks get sent out), there is little intentionality in direction, or structure.
Fortunately, some leaders become aware of the deficiencies in their organization and change can begin the moment that realization is made. Intentionality is one of the key factors of success in any organization. All organizations have cultures that dictate most day-to-day interactions, reporting relationships, responses to challenges and how decisions are made and implemented. These cultures all too often are coincidental rather than purposeful and organized.
After the leader or leaders recognize the inherent problem in the organization, the ability to change is dependent upon intentionally building a deep-seated culture that leads and has the opportunity to direct communication, improve processes, create good-will, attract and retain talent, clients and customers.
Here’s a quick 90-day cultural change challenge to any leader, any organization that wants to change their culture:
- Many great organizations like Disney, Amazon, Microsoft and Chic Fil A are known for their culture. It’s not a written statement it is a state of being. Classically, culture is defined by four parameters: Values, Language, Symbols & Borders. The question is, “what kind of culture do the leaders want?”
- Starting with the first cultural parameter, values, define the three or four (no more than five) core values the organization WANTS TO be identified with and exemplify. For example, Disney identifies “Openness, honesty, integrity, courage, respect, diversity, and balance…” as their core values.
- Carefully and very intentionally craft the language and accompanying symbols including slogans, tag lines, logos and colors that support the new values and language. Eliminate all non-supportive language and symbols.
- Launch and then train, reinforce, reward, champion and repeat.
While no culture is stagnant and no core cultural axioms are eternal, the best opportunity for true cultural change is when the senior leaders of the organization are the best advocates for the culture and the rest of the team are cultural carriers.
Remember that the culture-to-be-changed that presently dictates most day-to-day interactions, reporting relationships, responses to challenges and how decisions are made and implemented likely took years to emerge. It can be changed but that change requires a very intentional 90-day period followed by constant and never-ending support, encouragement and leading by example.
A 90-day period may seem like a short period of time. However, it is and needs to be seen to be the primary mission during the 90 days. It is not just a task, nor just a short-term problem to be solved but a transformation that will impact the organizations future. Great organizations like Disney, Amazon, Microsoft and Chic Fil A are known for their culture and your organization can be as well.