insight magazine

6 Steps for Changing Corporate Culture

A company’s culture plays a significant role in how successful that company will be over the long haul. By Editorial Staff | Digital Exclusive - 2018


A company’s culture plays a significant role in how successful that company will be over the long haul. But often as the world and circumstances change, that long-ingrained culture also needs to change—and that’s no easy task.

“The challenge is that most people live every day without much thought to the patterns and habits that are guiding their daily business life, or even their general life,” says Andi Simon, Ph.D., a corporate anthropologist and author of “On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights.” 

“In a corporate setting, leaders espouse values, beliefs, and expectations so people know what to do and how to get it done. Everything is fine until something begins to change and that culture must change, too,” he says.

Simon suggests any business facing the need for a culture change should try these six steps:

Step 1: Ask what your culture is today. Simon suggests thinking about what you value in terms of six key areas: dominant characteristics; organizational leadership; management of employees; the glue that holds the organization together; strategic emphases; and criteria of success.

Step 2: Ask what the culture should be tomorrow? Consider what you want your culture to become. Should it be less controlling and more empowering? More results oriented or more collegial? Do rules “rule” or are you open to new ideas and empowering staff?

Step 3: Tell a story. With your staff, tell a story about what the culture is today. “Let them all create a visualization of how you get things done now,” Simon says.

Step 4: Visualize tomorrow. What will tomorrow’s culture feel like? How will you get things done? Will people be enabled to make decisions and risk making mistakes? •

Step 5: Create pilot experiments. Through these experiments you can get people to see how the new culture is going to feel when they live it. “Think of this as if it is improvisation with good rehearsal time. You are asking people to change what they value, their beliefs, and their behaviors. That’s not easy and it’s full of risk,” Simon says.

Step 6: Celebrate. People need symbols and they need to celebrate and share experiences. “You need to seriously think about which rituals you will no longer do and which new ones you will introduce,” Simon says. “Be careful, though. Things that didn’t seem important can be very sacred to people when you are taking them away.”

“When all is said and done, make sure you keep moving it forward,” Simon says. “People will typically tell you how they love something new and then quickly revert to the old habits even without knowing it.”

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