What is Organizational Culture
and Why Does It Matter?

Like the scuba divers shown above in the Blue Hole in Belize, this Blog “dives in” to issues associated with organizational culture and cultural change. Staff members of the Breckenridge Institute® post recent research, case studies, experiences, insights, books we're reading and performance results they’ve gotten working with organizations in the area of using organizational culture to improve organizational performance and sustainability.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ten Guidelines for Managers Who Want to Create Culture Change

A common perception is that cultural change has to start at the very top of an organization. But field experience has shown that culture change can begin with the sub-culture of a work-group where a manager who is one or two levels down from senior management decides to become and Island of Excellence® in a sea of mediocrity. As objective evidence of believable, performance improvement becomes known to other managers, change often goes horizontal across the organization through other work-groups, then up through the line organization to top managers. The Breckenridge Institute® has developed ten guidelines that managers should follow when under-taking this kind of culture change (see list below).

1. Make sure that the changes you propose are in the best interest of the overall organization, not the self-interest of your work-group.

2. Solve your own work-group’s problems first and become an example of change.

3. Create your own organizational “space” and obtain additional resources based on the value you add.

4. Align your work-group’s vision with other work-groups, departments, and functional units by focusing on the things you hold in common and contribute to achieving the purpose and goals of the overall organization.

5. Communicate the trade-offs of actually accomplishing change to work-group members.

6. Manage meaning for people both in and out of your work-group so changes are interpreted through the “lens” of your work-group’s vision.

7. Only engage in constructive conflict with other work-groups or managers, and only do this when you have to for the best interest of the overall organization

8. Cultivate allies who will support the change and form open coalitions to ensure that change is sustainable.

9. Create a concrete, tangible path forward with credible next steps and a well-defined picture of the value-added that the change will bring to the overall organization.

10. Find and use exemplars (measurements) to reinforce the fact that change is actually happening and also to accelerate change.

While the specific application of the ten guidelines will change from organization to organization, the principles will hold true in for-profit, non-profit, and government organizations.