Beyond the BCG and Kotter’s approaches that have been explained in previous posts, Harvard Business Review provides a long list of tips to complement the aforementioned methodologies, and also to understand all the factors that should be taken into account, so long as they influence the process of culture change and its chances of success. These are the following:

Readiness to change is about arousing a sincere want for change. A leader’s admission of vulnerability is rather likely to help others recognize and address their failings. You can’t force people to change. You can only help them want to.

It is essential to replace negative habits with positive ones. Linking old to new habits is far more effective than approaching them separately. Doing A instead of B simplifies the change, rather than stopping the B habit without clear instructions of what to do instead.

Peer support and pressure foster change. One of the best ways to change human behavior is to gather people with similar problems. Bringing employees together to discuss initiatives creates accountability, mutual generosity, a judgment-free attitude, and increased pressure.

Sponsorship deepens commitment and sparks results. Identifying and rewarding early adopters of the new behaviors is likely to create positive contagion. For the slower adopters of the new behaviors it is much better to pair them with early adopters than external coaches.

Community without hierarchy is a catalyst for change. Confidence and trust tends to be higher in the closest relationships with peers rather than formal leaders, and so the informal relationships should be leveraged to move change forward, beyond the hierarchical leaders.

It pays to acknowledge small wins. Change management system should find ways for employees to show and celebrate incremental achievements. Failing to create short term wins is likely to lead the process to failure. Change effort needs to be often refilled with new energy.

Match strategy and culture. Too often executives underestimate to what extent culture alignment is a key success factor for strategy’s effectiveness, and actually is being an obstacle to strategy implementation. Culture, strategy and goals have to be closely interconnected.

Focus on a few critical shifts in behavior. Implementing culture change, as for any strategy challenge, is essential to set priorities. In this case, it is convenient to identify the key behaviors to change, prioritize them and focus only on the top priorities at first.

Honor the strengths of your existing culture. Instead of focusing only on the negative behaviors to be changed, it is recommendable to acknowledge the cultural assets of the organization that do not need change, and make the change feel more like a shared evolution.

Integrate formal and informal interventions. When promoting behavior changes it is necessary to appeal first to the emotional level (values, pride, integrity, etc.) and then to the rational self-interest (incentives, promotion, etc.) using both formal and informal interventions.

Care about professional development. Employee commitment is more likely to be achieved when these feel that the organization is investing in their future by providing training and caring for their professional development. Then they are more eager to buy into the change.

Assign clear accountabilities. Every member, starting with the executive team, should know what change goals and initiatives he or she is responsible for. The accountabilities should be cascaded accordingly from the leadership level to the bottom level of the organization.

Measure and monitor cultural evolution. As well as any other aspect related to strategy implementation, culture change progress has to be monitored, in order to identify misalignments or need for strategic reorientation. Executives should focus on four areas:

  • Business performance. Progression of the KPIs, assessing both outperformers and underperformers, and analyzing the underlying causes of the measured results.
  • Critical behaviors. The extent to which the members of the organization have changed their behaviors according to the established priorities.
  • Milestones. Level of accomplishment of the intermediate goals established in the implementation plan, considering the priority level of each goal.

When designing cultural metrics, it is better to focus on a few critical indicators than to create a complex system, which actually takes a great effort to develop and manage. In accordance with the metrics system, there has to be an incentive system to reward successes and give recognition to the best performers. Finally, don’t underestimate the power of a positive mindset, as it has the potential to change performance by creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This blog post is from the Whitepaper “Building a culture of collaboration and innovation”, freely downloadable in this weblog. You may check the Whitepaper’s references to know the sources used for its elaboration.

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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