Cultural Investment

In Business, Culture, Improvement, Leadership by Stephen Rogers

I introduced the importance of culture last month, and how leaders can affect the culture of their group.  I have been involved in several organisations over the last 20 years where they have introduced a typically very expensive program to change culture or develop leaders, much to my disappointment.  With much hoopla and ceremony, the program portrays the shape of the new enterprise, to be the next Apple, HP or Google.  Amongst the indoctrination and theories, the leaders are overwhelmed with information.  Their commitment to then implement the program follows, and three months down the track little has changed.  Why does this occur?

I am glad you asked.  Culture and leadership, behaviour and habits do not change based on information or even understanding.  We see this in everyday life. We all know that a healthy diet and lifestyle is good for us, giving us better quality of life and theoretically longevity.  How many of us actually follow through and do what is required with consistency?  Just because we know something will benefit doesn’t mean it will be implemented.  Instruction and comprehension does not equate to doing.  So what does?

An excellent question.  Let me just qualify that in many cases the information delivered in these programs is important and even appropriate. The problem is in the approach and strategy applied.  Most of these programs do not have a clear staged plan with tools that help the leaders implement what they have learned. More importantly, the programs try to force a philosophy on the business without clearly understanding the DNA.  Most importantly the leaders are expected to execute something in the midst of doing their regular work, trying to find time, and implementing it half-heartedly, rushed or superficially to tick a box.

Getting to what works.  The successful approach lies in what we have to do for changing any habit; leaders (and businesses) only get better if they pick something important to improve, involve the people around them and follow up in a disciplined way. Long-term change in leadership effectiveness takes time, follow-up and discipline.  I would typically allow 18-24 months to see good transformation in a business; some take longer.  It requires a very disciplined plan, with strong accountability, and really owned by top management.  It might require revisiting something several times, but until it is habit, we can’t move on.  What are you willing to change today and what step are you willing to take to make that happen?  Transformation occurs one step at a time, incrementally, one after another.