Steve Waszak
October 25, 2019

Culture, culture, culture - Do we need to change and improve it or help it evolve?

Steve Waszak has written an article on his interpretation of the Global State of Operational Excellence Survey Report - Critical Challenges & Future Trends - 2018/2019.  Click here to download the full Survey Report 2018/19.  


The Most Comprehensive Study of Critical Challenges and Future Trends within Operational Excellence

With nearly 1000 respondents, 37 insightful questions, detailed analysis & insights from 40 industry thought leaders, and the BTOES Insights executive team, this 130 page report is recognised as the most comprehensive study of critical challenges and future trends within Operational Excellence, and is considered a key resource for the industry. Areas covered include:

  • The Critical Operational Excellence Challenges faced by executives.

  • The Current Scope of Operational Excellence.

  • How is Operational Excellence success measured?

  • Key Findings & Roadblocks.

  • What are executives focusing on over the next 12-18 months?

  • What have been the greatest developments?

  • What are the key drivers pushing change in Operational Excellence?

  • Industry Perspectives.

  • Small, Medium & Large Corporation Perspectives.

  • Detail Analysis & Insights from BTOES Insights Executive Team.

  • Detailed Analysis & Insights from 40 Industry Thought Leaders.

  • Analysis of key themes, including Cultural Transformation, Customer Delight, Sustaining an Operational Excellence program, Need for end-to-end Business Transformation, Keeping up with new technologies/impact of digitalization and Leadership Buy-in & Understanding.


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Culture, culture, culture - Do we need to change and improve it or help it evolve?

With 53.1% of respondents citing changing and improving company culture as their top critical challenge, I want to open a up a bit of a semantics debate.  Should we be looking to change and improve the company culture, or should we be working to help it evolve? Is changing and improving it the same as helping it evolve?  If so, then the debate ends. However, if not, then we need to decide what we are trying to do. Click here to read the full Survey Report 2018/19.    




“Change and Improve” or Evolve


Let’s start with the question, “Are they the same?”  Without Googling what other people think, pause and clarify what you think we are trying to do when we say “change and improve” culture.  When we talk about cultural transformation are we talking about change or evolution? I would like to say that we are talking about evolution, not change.  Change can lead to improvement, or not. Evolution infers improvement.


So, if we think of facilitating and guiding the evolution of a company culture, does this give us a better perspective on what we should be doing?  Think about it, when Darwin describes evolution, he talks about survival of the fittest. Is the concept of “survival of the fittest” not the same for a business?  The difference is that in the business world we have some control over the evolution.


Now that your paradigm is contemplating shifting from culture change to evolution, let me add the concept of mutation to the thought process.  Mutation is part of evolution, but it is in fact change. It is a permanent change (at least until the next mutation). So, for the 35.6% of respondents that cite their critical challenge being executing sustainable Operational Excellence projects, may I suggest that you use your hindsight to determine if you were trying to “change and improve” or were you trying to facilitate and guide evolution by predisposing the organization to a desired mutation (sustainable).


This is not just a play on words, it is a critical thought process when it comes to guiding the culture where it needs to go.  You need to accept that the culture is real and that based on the facilitation and guidance of Operational Excellence professionals, it will mutate and evolve.  During this evolution, the culture will always bring with it part of what it was before and go forward with something new and relevant to the vision and strategy of leadership.


Again, for those 35.6% that have a sustainability challenge, challenge your project’s intent.  Is it “change and improve” or “mutate and evolve”? For the 23.2% that cite their critical challenge as lack of leadership understanding and buy-in, you may want to challenge your message to leadership.  Is it “change and improve” or “mutate and evolve”?




Alignment is Key to Leading Cultural Evolution


Facilitation and guidance of the cultural evolution is guided by the vision and strategy of leadership.  I see a strong correlation between the 53.1% of respondents citing changing and improving company culture as their top critical challenge and the 23.2% of respondents noting that their top critical challenge is a lack of leadership understanding and buy-in.  I cannot help but wonder if the lack of understanding and buy-in goes both ways, making positive culture evolution difficult, if not impossible.


Research Report: Culture, culture, culture - Do we need to change and improve it or help it evolve? 

When sensing a lack of understanding or buy-in from leadership, it is helpful to pause and challenge your alignment to leadership’s direction.  And, when efforts to evolve the culture to improve competitive advantage are stalling, it is helpful to pause to challenge the organization’s alignment to leadership’s direction.


Alignment is critical when cultural evolution is needed to sustain or gain competitive advantage.  Organizational culture has deep roots and any mutations will have long term effects. How aligned you are at the start determines how aligned you will be down the road.  If alignment is off just a little, all may look good at the beginning, but the future state can wind up way off course as the two paths diverge. Continuously challenge your alignment when guiding a cultural evolution.


May your company culture mutate, evolve and repeat.

Want to learn more? Download the full Report.
Research Report: Culture, culture, culture - Do we need to change and improve it or help it evolve?


About the Author

Steve Waszak: Research Report: Culture, culture, culture - Do we need to change and improve it or help it evolve?

Steve Waszak

Vice President of Operational Excellence, Greene Group Industries

Steve, each day,  looks forward to meeting new people, new challenges, learning, and opportunities to bring business performance, competitiveness and growth to new levels. Check out his LinkedIn page.

Steve is the Vice President of Operational Excellence for Greene Group Industries, a privately-held major supplier to leading industrial manufacturers, with locations across the USA in California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.  Reporting to the President, Steve works across the company’s business units and functional areas driving organizational alignment and fostering a customer focused culture to support the goal of continuously improving competitive advantage. Click here to see all BTOES19 Speakers.

Prior to the Greene Group, Steve spent 20 plus years working internationally, gaining experience and expertise across industries and disciplines.  He has worked seven years in management consulting, seven years in operational leadership roles, five years running a high-tech start-up, and served four years in the United States Air Force, where he was awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal.

A firm believer in understanding fundamentals, Steve strives to make sure that all team members understand what constitutes the foundation of their organization’s competitive advantage and how each person’s role strengthens that foundation.  He is focused on providing the leadership, strategies, and development needed to help enable individuals to more productively contribute to the organization’s success.


The issues in this article are just one of topic areas that are going to be discussed at the Business Transformation & Operational Excellence World Summit & Industry (BTOES19). March 18-22, 2019, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort®

BTOES is the industry’s biggest and best, senior-level, cross-industry gathering of Business Transformation & Operational Excellence industry leaders and senior executives.

It also hosts the Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Awards, which showcase globally the most outstanding organizational achievements through the application of Operational Excellence programs.

The summits hosts a number of private forums for C-Level & Global corporate-level leaders as well as business unit heads.

With over 150 speakers, over 100 sessions, 12 Keynotes, 9 Track Themes, 5 parallel tracks, 60+ track sessions, 50 roundtable discussions, 20 Interactive Workshops, 6 Thought Leader Panels, 5 Leaders Boardrooms, 5 co-located events, the Industry Awards Program, Site Visits, 20+ hours of social networking including 2 gala cocktail parties, dinners, numerous group activities, this is the ultimate event to benchmark, network and drive Operational Excellence to the next level.


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There is a strong focus on Cultural Transformation, Customer Delight, Sustaining an Operational Excellence program, Need for end-to-end Business Transformation, Keeping up with new technologies/impact of digitalization and Leadership Buy-in & Understanding. We dedicated two tracks to advanced technologies, such as AI, Machine Learning, RPA, Predictive Analytics, Blockchain, Cloud infrastructure etc.


The agenda is designed to encourage active meaningful conversations though all day enhanced networking and interaction opportunities, including

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