Driving Culture Change

Driving Culture Change

By Dan Gabbett

In my line of work I hear a lot of business owners complain to me about their staff. While they like their team and admire their loyalty, business owners are often concerned that staff are just going through the motions. In many cases, the business needs a bit of a shake up, a culture change, and as the leader it’s up to the owner of the business to drive that change. But where to start?

An article by John P Kotter in the Harvard Business Review title “Leading Change – Why Transformation Efforts Fail” establishes a framework to help you drive change in your business. Kotter’s process provides 8 steps to help you transform the culture of your organization. I’ve thrown in my own commentary along the way.

1. Establish a sense of urgency
Examine market trends and the competitive realities of your industry. Identify and discuss current crises, potential crises and major opportunities for your business.

Get competitive, look at your business and where it sits in your industry with fresh eyes and face the realities you find. Use risks and opportunities as motivation.

2. Form a powerful guiding coalition
Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change. Encourage the group to work together as a team.

You’ll need a strong team who have enough authority to make decisions and implement them within your business. This team will be integral to the overall success of your change efforts so choose wisely.

3. Create a vision
Create a clear vision to help direct the change effort. Develop practical strategies and steps to achieve that vision.

What culture do you want your business to have? What needs to change for you to achieve this? How will you make the necessary changes?

4. Communicate the vision
Use every method possible to communicate the new vision and strategies. Use your guiding coalition to lead by example from the top down.

Every aspect of your business needs to reflect the change you’re trying to implement. Your staff need to see you walking the walk not just talking the talk. Lead by example and make sure the message you’re sending your staff is consistent.

5. Empowering others to act on the vision
Get rid of obstacles to change. Change systems and structures that undermine your new vision. Encourage risk-taking and non-traditional ideas, activities and actions.

The change you need to implement will most likely be bigger than you first expected. Stand your ground and do what’s necessary to see your vision through. Don’t be surprised if you see staff come out of their shells with new ideas or suggestions. Encourage them.

6. Plan for and create short-term wins
Plan for visible performance improvements. Recognise and reward employees involved in achieving these improvements.

Set goals for your staff and reward them accordingly. Providing an incentive can help staff accept change more readily.

7. Consolidate improvements and produce further change
Use increased credibility to change other systems, structures and policies that don’t fit the vision. Hire, promote and develop staff who embody and can implement your vision. Reinvigorate the process with new projects.

Now you have the ball rolling don’t let it come to a standstill. All decisions you make for your business should reflect your commitment to achieving your new vision. You will need to keep staff motivated by keeping up momentum and thinking of new ways to develop and reinforce the vision.

8. Institutionalising new approaches
Articulate the connection between the new vision and behavior and corporate success. Develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession.

Communicate the benefits of this new culture by demonstrating how it has improved your business. Make sure you have leadership plans in place to keep the new culture alive in the future.

If you’re feeling like your business could do with a change, you may want to consider a business plan or set up a strategic-planning meeting to help you create your vision.

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