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Changing Your Culture, Choose Your Leaders Wisely

Posted by Josh Patrick

LeadershipWhether you are putting a lean initiative in your company or going for a systematic innovation system you will be asking the people in your company to change how they relate with each other.  When instituting any program that involves changing your culture you must choose your leaders carefully.

Senior management must be behind the change.  Senior management doesn’t have to be involved in the tactical details of change, but they certainly have to be intimately involved in providing resources and understanding the process.  Without the total support of senior management any program that involves cultural change is destined to fail.

Mindfully working on a company’s culture is often a good thing and helps improve the enterprise value of the company.  At the same time, making a cultural change just for economic return will backfire and those instituting this change might not get the results they want.

Your internal leaders must be trained properly.  Any program that involves cultural change takes a long time.  First, the people responsible for implementing and tactical moves must be trained properly.  They not only have to understand what the company is trying to do, but to have tools to deal with challenges when things don’t go as well as they could.

Internal leaders need to have the ear and attention of senior management.  Initial gains are often easy to get in a lean or innovation project.  Making the gains permanent often has inertia working against them.  Without having the support of senior management change initiatives will often fail.

You will need an outside expert for success.  Installing a program that requires cultural change will feel strange to many people in your company.  Even if senior management is completely behind it and you have well trained internal leaders there will be at some point be an impetus to stop or delay the program. 

Programs that require cultural change have consultants who have gone through extensive training in the program you’re installing in your company.  These people are often known as “black belts” in the disciplines that you’re using.

The black belts have seen it all before.  They can help you understand that some of the steps that are moving you backwards are normal and are part of the process.  They often have strategies and techniques that can allow you to once again get back on track.  I believe having a black belt consultant is just as important as senior management buy in and having well trained internal champions.

Companies that use all three of the strategies above have a better than average chance of making cultural change that comes from installing a new way of thinking about your company stick.  Those who don’t do all of the steps are likely to have early success, but that success may be short lived.

Josh Patrick

Before embarking on a project such as a lean program or innovation system you might want to find where the strengths and weaknesses are in your company.  We have a complementary Stage 2 interview and report that we offer.  This report requires a 30 minute phone conversation with us to gather information.  If you're interested in this process, please call Melissa at 802-846-1264 to set a time for us to talk.

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Topics: cultural change, for business owners, Strategic Thought

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