Changing Corporate Culture

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Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor and author of numerous management books, said, “The corporation’s edict to its members could be phrased as: While you are here, you will act as though you have no other responsibilities, no other life.”  While many organizations could have been described like this in the past, there are some corporate cultures which still operate this way.  Is Dr. Kanter describing your corporate culture?

What is “corporate culture?”  Most simply put, it’s the personality of your organization that has developed over time.  Sure, strategic plans and initiatives, systems and processes play a part in corporate culture, but so do employees’ habits and norms of behavior.  If you want to change corporate culture, then you have to not only focus on the operational and technical side of things, but also determine how to overcome the human reaction of resistance to change.  Rob Goffee, author and professor at the London Business School says, “A company’s culture is often buried so deeply inside rituals, assumptions, attitudes, and values that it becomes transparent to an organization’s members only when, for some reason, it changes.”

What kind of organization do you want? Is it one that learns, continually improves and strives to become the best version of itself?  If so, then it has to start with your employees — you must have employees who are focused on learning, continually improving, and striving to become the best version of themselves.  Perhaps you need to take a serious look at how your corporate culture or your corporate change initiatives focus on the human side of things.

And what level of commitment do you want from employees to help support the corporate culture?  Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization stated that “Real commitment is rare in today’s organization…90% of the time what passes for commitment is compliance.”  Do you want employees who are compliant and perhaps disengaged, or do you desire a workforce who is committed to your business?

I read an interesting blog post by Peter Bregman, strategic advisor and author.  Bregman suggests that we need to do two things to change our corporate cultures:

  1. Do dramatic story-worthy things that represent the culture we want to create. Then let other people tell stories about it.
  2. Find other people who do story-worthy things that represent the culture we want to create. Then tell stories about them.

What I think this boils down to is developing a corporate culture which finds ways to inspire your employees to change—learn, grow, expand beyond their comfort zones,…hmm…dream.  If we allowed and encouraged employees to pursue and fulfill their dreams, imagine the stories they could tell.  I firmly believe if your employees would begin to think strategically for themselves in their own lives – pursuing and achieving their own dreams – they would positively change your corporate culture in ways beyond our wildest expectations.

To learn more, please watch my video on Toledo BizConnectTV.

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