Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Changing Organizational Culture

Changing organizational culture can be vital, especially if an organization is struggling and desires to be effective in the long term. We know stories of businesses that have crumbled because of a lack of integrity by the CEO, or a church that has closed because the senior pastor didn't know how to inspire a great culture within their church. 

How many morning tea times are full of gossip and frustrated employees who wish their business had a better culture? How many emails are sent daily complaining about the ins and outs of the workplace, all because leaders have not developed a great culture in their workplace? How many secret facebook messages do business people send to their friends, during work times, that relate to issues of culture?

Changing Organizational Culture through a Culture of Planning

Firstly, an organization needs to have a culture of planning. Ever heard, without a plan you plan to fail? Too many businesses go about everyday business without planning. Two questions need to be asked. Firstly where is our intended destination and secondly, how are we going to get there? The first question is a vision question, the second is a planning question. 

You can't climb Mount Everest without a plan, nor should we cruise through our workdays without planning how we will achieve what we are hoping to achieve. While the implications of bad planning (or no planning) for the Everest Climber is death, for an organization bad or no planning might mean a loss of income, loss of personnel, etc. A culture of planning, is a culture of strategic thinking. It is about looking at the mission, vision and values of the organization, and saying, 'How are we going to achieve this?' 'What is our strategy?' 'What is our plan?' High performing organizations execute plans well, and adapt them as circumstances change. They create a culture within their organization of strategic thinking and planning.

The reason a lack of planning creates dysfunctional organizational culture, is because spontaneity reigns, and while this can at times be managed, quite often it simply means there is organizational choas and lack of direction. A culture of planning is needed.

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed" - Proverbs 16:3

Changing Organizational Culture through Implementing a Culture of Execution

This is the mantra that says, 'If you say you're going to do it, then do it'. This builds trust amongst the people of an organization. It's about following through with agenda items, and implementing the ideas into concrete realities. Within a business, a culture of execution might look like the announcement of a new product range - an idea that could transform the business! A healthy culture of execution gets the job done! The idea doesn't just sit on the desk, or in the heart of the leader, it is communicated, thought through, researched and if appropriate, is actioned. A culture of execution inspires people to move from ideas and abstract concepts to implemented tangible practices.

Within a church, for example, a culture of execution is needed, because so many visions and dreams sit on the leader's desk, or even in the minds of the people. There needs to be encouragement to follow through and make it happen, with God's help, so the dream is not just some pie-in-the-sky concept.

Following through on tasks and commitments are important. Employees within organizations are disempowered if leader's don't attend the meetings they say they will, or if the leadership committee put forward another grandiose idea that everyone know will never happen. A culture of execution, lets people know, that people will do what they say. They will complete the assignments set for them, they will make the appropriate changes, because they believe in a culture of execution. This is a helpful leadership tip for creating a healthy culture in an organization! 

Changing Organizational Culture through Visionary Leadership

Without visionary leadership the people wander aimlessly says an old proverb. Without vision it is very easy to cruise through life, and to step back a year later and say, 'Have I actually gone anywhere?' 'Have I actually achieved anything that is purposeful?' While vision in itself is not enough to arrive at a place of effectiveness; vision helps inspire you, your team, your family, your co-workers, to reach for new heights. 

If you aim at nothing you'll hit it every time. Vision is important to me, because if I aim at nothing, I'll reach it! Though, if I aim at cloud number seven, and only reach cloud number 3, I've still gone further than if I have aimed at nothing! So vision, personally, provides an injection of passion and direction, that when aligned with strategy can produce great results.

A big vision in an organization helps produce a healthy culture, primarily because employees, from the cleaners to HR professionals to managers stop talking about what brand of coffee they are drinking, and start talking about the possibilities of the organization in which they work. It lifts their eyes from the mediocrity of mundane day-to-day work, to consider adapting their work choices, in order that vision can be accomplished. 
  • Does your organization have a culture of visionary leadership?
  • What do people talk about when they are grabbing their coffee? Is it about the organization's future and possibilities and potential? Is it a healthy discussion?

Changing Organizational Culture from Within - Integrity

One of most important leadership tip anyone could ever give in relation to creating healthy organizational culture, has to be the need for integrity. Now, this might seem simple enough, and we may well agree with the statement. It is when the rubber hits the road, that I wonder whether people really understand the importance of integrity.

Stories upon stories are heard of corrupt CEO's, abusive authoritarian leaders, a lack or morale because what the leader communicates does not match their actions, and the list goes on. 

Most leadership books comment on the importance of depth of character, integrity and a sense of morality/conscience and the effect this has on those you are leading. John C. Maxwell devotes a chapter to integrity in Developing the Leader Within You (1993). He says:
  • Integrity builds trust
  • Integrity has high influence value
  • Integrity facilitates high standards
  • Integrity results in a solid reputation, not just image
  • Integrity means living it myself before leading others
  • Integrity helps a leader be credible, not just clever
  • Integrity is a hard-won achievement (p. 35-48).
Why does integrity amongst leaders help create a healthy organizational culture? Firstly, as already noted, trust is built. When the leader says something, you know they will be trustworthy, based on previous experiences. It is demoralizing to not be able to trust a leader, as this becomes an infectious disease within the organization! Secondly, integrity is paramount to this healthy organizational culture, because a leader exemplifies the 'do as I do, not just as I say' kind of rhetoric.

You may not be able to cause someone else to have integrity, but you can cause yourself to have it!

Finally, changing organizational culture takes leadership; visionary leadership, integrity, planning, and an ability to execute the tasks at hand.


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