Change Management Methodology Overview: Change the Change or Change the Culture
Creating a Cultural Fit is an important element of the AIM change management methodology. Your organization’s culture is arguably your greatest strategic asset. Your competition can potentially match your product or service. Competition can create a marketing strategy that’s equally powerful. But no competition will have your culture.
Your corporate culture is the collective pattern of values, behaviors, and unwritten rules of your organization—it’s the collective frame of reference for your organization. And when it comes to implementation of major business changes, the consistency of that change within the corporate culture can predict the probability of implementation success.
Unwritten Rules are Most Powerful
We all recognize that our organizations have unique aspects to them which we can term the "corporate culture." The culture includes:
- Behaviors- how we operate
- Values- guidelines for the decisions we make
- Unwritten rules- “the way we do things around here”
In a successful organization, values are consistently expressed, modeled, and reinforced. When the there is a mismatch or lack of alignment between the “walk,” the “talk,” and the reinforcement from leaders, there is less confidence and trust. In terms of implementation, this lack of trust impacts the speed and resources required for successful implementation.
Low Trust= Low speed, more resources needed
High Trust= High speed, fewer resources needed
Remember that reinforcement has the greatest impact on the successful outcome of your change, and when there is a mismatch between what is expressed, modeled, and reinforced, you can expect confusion and less readiness for the change.
While values are important, it’s the unwritten rules that are the most powerful determinant of culture. So powerful, in fact, that if your change is inconsistent with the culture, you ultimately will be faced with two choices—either change the change, so that is consistent, or change the culture, which is a long and very difficult process.
Changing the Culture is a Difficult Proposition
Don’t go up against your organizational culture without a business imperative to do so, because you can expect lots of resistance. There are many reasons why culture change is so difficult. First, leaders will be inclined to reinforce the culture that made them successful in the first place—culture is self-reinforcing! So consequently you can expect a lot of resistance from the leaders themselves (as we say, you can expect the greatest resistance from those that have the highest investment in things remaining the same.)
If changing the culture still makes good business sense, be prepared to:
- Re-define what success looks like, and build an implementation plan with the appropriate reinforcements for the new behaviors
- Make certain that you have powerful Sponsors who are actively committed to the change (not just lip-service)
- Develop skilled Change Agents who can support the culture change. If you have too few Agents, or don’t have credibility and influence in the right areas of the organization, your chances for success will be minimal
Culture change requires more than a vision of the future state—you need a solid implementation plan that includes specific plans for building Sponsorship, Readiness, Reinforcement, Communication, and Change Agents.