Most companies are hard at work trying to reinvent themselves. They realize the old culture that made them successful must evolve if they are to compete for customers and employees. But changing a company culture is as difficult as trying to change your own personality…it’s easy to modify it for a short time, but long-term change takes some hard work and commitment.
Companies (like people) without a compelling reason to change will give up when times get tough. They will seek the quick, easy fixes instead of going for deeper, more meaningful change. But companies that are willing to make the investment to work on the inner core of the business will achieve the breakthroughs.
Most companies want to boost employee commitment and improve quality and service. Inevitably, they start a “program” which involves employees in making improvements and saving the company money. The purpose is to create an environment in which the employees will take more ownership. Of course, the leadership hopes they will solve persistent problems and the company will benefit as a result.
Often, employees are suspicious of “just another program” that looks like an attempt to make them work harder. They ask the questions, “Why are we doing this?” “Where are we going?” and “What’s in it for me?” Companies willing to tackle these questions will be more successful in their transformation than those that are not.
Although most employees are thrilled to be a part of any effort that will enable them to feel more empowered to do quality work, sooner or later they will bump up against the traditional structures and systems that were designed for the old culture. For example, a parent/child style discipline system will continue to aggravate relationships between management and employees; narrow job descriptions will limit the scope of employees’ jobs and prevent them from taking on more responsibility and authority; old fashioned department goal-setting may actually encourage intra-departmental conflict; an outdated recognition and reward system may reward the wrong behavior.
These systems are the life support system of a company’s culture and they can be some of the most powerful leverage areas for meaningful change. Even though they are both the opportunity and the obstacle to real change, companies are reluctant to fiddle with them. It’s hard work. It’s a lot easier to put everyone through a Total Quality Management training program. But in the end, the initial excitement of a “program” will fizzle because enthusiastic change-makers will get discouraged.
Shaping a new culture requires a hard look at human behavior, motivation and future vision. The new system that is put in place must create an environment that encourages the right behavior and discourages undesirable behavior. The concept is to create personal motivation that is built on commitment rather than control. If it is thoughtfully designed – and adjusted – with the involvement of the people, the results will make a significant difference in your company’s transformation.
There is no doubt that we are experiencing a workplace renaissance. We will see more change in the next 10 years than we have seen in the last 100. Take this opportunity to sculpt the kind of workplace that will attract customers and quality employees for years to come.
-Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee-based executive coach and organizational and leadership development strategist. She has a track record spanning more than 20 years, and is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Email your question to Joan at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.JoanLloyd.com to search an archive of more than 1,600 of Joan’s articles. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 354-9500.