Andrew McCune
June 05, 2017

Is Over-Delegation the Biggest Mistake when trying to sustain Culture Transformation?

Key challenges faced when sustaining Cultural Transformation in a business

One of the first things to learn as a new manager is to delegate, but as a leader who sets the fabric of culture, delegation could be your biggest mistake! 

In the BTOES Insights Report, Operational Excellence: Snapshots, an anonymous quote regarding the greatest challenges facing OpEx identified a cultural embedding issue with the following:

 “Leaders who delegate operational excellence to the level where the authority of the senior leadership is no longer obvious and with no follow up to ensure a positive outcome.”

A clear cause for failure to manage change and culture will be any senior leadership team that does not:

  • Act as a role model in implementing the new behaviors
  • Establish the value of newly set new Operational Excellence criteria
  • Make a clear allocation of resources providing for that criteria.

These are a few of the primary means by which to embed new culture.

Why is it Critical to Have a Role Model when sustaining Cultural Transformation?

Role model new behaviors are critical because no one will know what right looks like unless an example is set.

If the leader doesn’t know or doesn't have the skill to deal with the new behaviors, then it is up to the leader to lead oneself to learn and do – seek out those who do possess those behaviors for mentoring. Through this effort by the leader to adopt new behaviors, a credible role model to follow will emerge. Other leaders and followers will recognize this, and a basis of changing the underlying assumption as to “how the place really runs” will tip over.

For example, if the organization has a habit of default execution without some degree of planning and preparation, then the leader must learn to plan and prepare sufficiently to role model this for others to follow. This means to expect better planning and preparation before the rush to execute, the leader must be practiced enough to expect it in others.

Improve your productivity with a Company culture of Operational Excellence

Knowing Your Current Culture, and Resetting Criteria for Operational Excellence

This leads to a clear understanding to set new criteria, and more specifically, understanding which criteria to set.

When embedding change to culture, knowing the current culture is vital. Without this understanding, knowing which levers to set new criteria against can directly challenge underlying assumptions and the interrelationships to the other assumptions and values of the organization (i.e. systems thinking). Therefore, leaders need to focus on creating the basis for a new habit that will change culture.

For example, when the leader understands that managers operate on experience and intuitive knowledge of the operation, this can trigger interpersonal conflict. One manager’s word versus another creates insult rather than objective inquiry. This creates a practice of information kept close to the vest, conflict, and do as I say not as I do. The need is for leaders/managers to learn to use more objective data to address operations and issues in the context of desired outcomes (a.k.a G&O, KRA, or KPOV). 

Further, objectivity prompts the leader to become transparent, and engaging with other stakeholders to operate and solve problems that arise. The leader must set clear criteria at the lever for objective information as basis for decision making. This compliments a need for better methods to replace nonexistent planning and preparation. The leader who sets the expectation for better information in a requisite format will, in effect, embed that criteria in the organization.

What Resources are needed Support a Long-Lasting Culture Transformation

Allocating Resources to Support a Long-Lasting Culture Transformation 

Allocation of resources against that criteria clearly announces how important the criteria is for behaving and operating in a different way.

Everyone is watching, and will clearly see this. The resources are “skin-in-the-game” and set in motion execution to bring about a clear and visible fulfillment. For example, if data in graphical and tabular form is a set criteria, investment in not just data but user experience that answers the pressing questions the organization needs answered daily. Or, in another example, the resource of time applied to collaborative planning sessions is another visible investment. Treating planning and preparation as right activity to prosecute right execution delvers enough of the right outcomes. Keep in mind, this is not intended to be analysis paralysis or a gridlock of risk management – certainly the management team will develop an allergy to such conditions, and changing the behaviors that effect how the place really runs will slow down or stall.

Bringing this back up to the surface, the challenge of changing culture can be difficult, and is not for the faint at heart.

This starts with a leader who deliberately identifies assumptions that drive behavior in the organization that must change. The leader becomes a role model of that behavior, sets criteria, and applies resources against executing on that criteria. A common misunderstanding is that this somehow is accomplished on a laundry list of items and is completed within the quarter that is delegated down through the organization. Not so, otherwise, we would see and hear about more success stories of cultural change that is sustained.


Andrew S. McCune
Senior Process Consultant, Engagement Director
Strategy Deployment, Operational Excellence, Change Managemen

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