By Randy Snyder
There is no magic formula when corporate or organizational culture inevitably needs change if it is going to thrive. One thing for certain, patience is necessary as there is no quick fix. The need for change is apparent when the financial plight or vacuous morality evolves oft times in tandem.
Retail or service companies, construction companies and professional sports teams can all positively affect their results by undergoing necessary cultural changes.
We can all relate to the detrimental effect that the “National Anthem kneeling matter” had on professional football! Although led by one person, the lack of response by the commissioner to address the matter had a dramatic effect on the TV viewing audience. The attention getting media exposure of this unacceptable respect for the very symbol of our nation had an immediate detrimental effect on a tradition like none other in history, all due to the cause and effect of only one person spreading to many others. Indeed, the team culture and widespread culture of the game had changed.
I worked in a retail organization as an executive and was part of an organizational culture change that took several years. The company’s salespeople in over 1200 stores treated customers like they were an interruption of their time. The sales staffs were retrained with new required training programs and creating required responses to ameliorate every customer complaint through a company “hot line.” The process included rewarding those individuals and stores for outstanding service with spectacular rewards for spectacular service. Customer service became the hallmark of the company in general. The testimonies of customers and recognition of associates was printed and distributed throughout the company. The rudimentary theme of the change was that without the customer, we don’t have a job!
The larger the organization, the more difficult the culture change challenge becomes. A strong, carefully crafted mission statement endorsed by the entire organization is the genesis of the cultural change process. However, unequivocally, the change starts at the top and the mantra must be understood by all. When any organization has a number of people making decisions, communicating and taking action as individuals with no unifying voice, the challenge becomes more difficult. The ideal situation is the person at the pinnacle of the organizational triangle mirroring the change and living it by example thus affecting the next layer of management to another throughout the organization. Everyone is important, and the more prestigious the title or position of top management, responsibility, not authority is increased. Those individuals not subscribing to the changing culture and resisting the tenets of that culture will be eliminated through a process of continuous reprimands and evaluations, or terminating as needed. In cases where turnover is continuously negatively affected, the entire process needs to be evaluated. A keynote ingredient to remember in a culture changing process is “if you can’t measure results, you can’t manage them!”
Another part of the recipe for change when needed is total transparency with no clandestine matters twixt management and the entire team. Everything is public information, and everyone has a voice through mediums created for the purpose of expression on all matters and decisions. There should be no surprises due to knee jerk reactions to unusual occurrences and isolated situations where an individual incidence results in a reaction that affects the whole.
The bottom line and essential part of the culture change “journey” (it is a journey and not a short trip) is accountability at all levels. Communication is necessary. Its frequency should be determined by each situation and the urgency therein.
Last but not least is quality control. Quality control is only possible with flawless follow-up on every repair, every correction, every action and every construction of all things, especially in an organization that has physical assets. The job is not done when visually or audibly it seems like the job is done! Every detail of the intended end result must be inspected according to the original plan.
Leadership in cultural change only happens when the leaders and their immediate peers or subordinates lead by example. Leaders cannot isolate themselves by not being visible and or, remaining in their office environment. The applicable belief is that leaders live by “do as I do, not only as I say,” and when that is the mission of the change is undertaken, the culture in due time will undergo the change needed.