What is Cultural Transformation?

Culture transformation is a shift that can take place throughout an entire organization or in individual departments and teams. It requires changing the hearts, minds, and skills of the workforce to support the desired culture. Individuals must first have the conviction (heart) to change their behavior. Then, they must understand what behavior change looks like (mind) and have the necessary tools (skills) to change.

Why Undergo a Culture Transformation?

The underlying reason behind a culture transformation must be to achieve corporate objectives. Without this impetus, there will not be sufficient motivation to maintain the necessary momentum to create lasting behavior change. The specific objectives will depend on where your organization currently is and where you want to be. They might include goals such as:

  • Improving safety
  • Delivering excellent customer service
  • Engaging employees
  • Fostering leadership excellence

Regardless of what your corporate objectives are, they must be clear from the beginning so you can use them as touchstones throughout the process.

How to Achieve a Culture Transformation

A successful transformation requires full engagement and buy-in from all levels of leadership throughout the organization. Leaders play a vital role in modeling and coaching the desired behaviors that will permeate the company. Without a commitment from leaders to transform the culture, employees are not likely to make lasting behavior changes on their own.

After getting all the key players on board, create a road map that addresses the following questions:


Where are we now?

Perform assessments to diagnose where the organization actually is versus where you think it is. Leadership sometimes has a different perception of the culture, so it is important to collect accurate data and input from the organization as a whole. In order to determine how the majority of the organization perceives the company culture, use the following cultural transformation tools to get started: 

  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Interviews with high-potential employees
  • One-on-one interviews with executives
  • Digital voting platforms

Gathering this information will help you successfully take on the next step of the culture transformation journey.


Where do we want to be?

Set organizational goals and objectives so you know when you have succeeded. This might be a market expansion, becoming innovative leaders in your industry, or standing out as a company that provides extraordinary customer service. Or it might be higher employee engagement and lower staff turnover. Whatever your specific objectives are, they must be clearly defined so that you know what success looks like.  

Why do we want to change?

Clearly articulate the reason for the change. This includes communicating with both leaders who will support the transformation and employees who will have a hand in making the transformation actually happen. Examples of reasons include:

  • Fixing a problem or filling a gap
  • Capitalizing on an opportunity
  • Entering new markets
  • Attracting and retaining top talent

As Phil Geldart writes, “When people understand the benefits that will occur as a result of a successful transformation, or even during the journey, then they are much more willing and able to support all the efforts that are required to achieve it” (Purpose, Passion, Path).

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What is our line of sight?

After determining where the organization currently is, where you want to be, and why you want to get there, the next step is to create a line of sight from the beginning to the end of the transformation process. After defining the path, this line of sight must be continuously highlighted so it stays top-of-mind throughout the transformation. This can be achieved through periodic check-ins, milestone celebrations, and measuring success along the way.

Conclusion: Corporate Culture Is A Demanding But Worthwhile Investment

Simply stated, culture transformation is the collective shifting of individual behaviors to support a shared goal. It’s a demanding process, but can be achieved and is highly rewarding when done properly. Therefore, start by knowing exactly why a culture transformation is necessary and then answer the listed questions. Once you do, you will have taken an important step in the process of shifting your corporate culture.



The Role of Company Culture in Operational Excellence

At heart, Operational Excellence is an element of organizational leadership the employs numerous methodologies and tools, focusing on the sustainable improvement of outstanding performance metrics. Alongside this, Corporate culture is the collection of values, visions, missions, and day-to-day aspects of communication and operational goals that create the atmosphere that permeates and determines how employees work in their organization.

According to the Barrett Values Centre"Vibrant cultures have high levels of performance because they create internal cohesion, attract talented people, and inspire employees to go the extra mile."

Without a company culture that promotes the behaviours and actions of Operational Excellence and Continuous improvement, an Operational Excellence Program is unable to embed itself in the long-term across any organization.

Components of a Company Culture

Whilst a company culture has many interwoven threads, there are a few key defining components that can make or break a company culture:

  • Vision - Good vision statements can even help orient customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
  • Values - While a vision articulates a company’s purpose, values offer a set of guidelines on the behaviors and mindsets needed to achieve that vision. 
  • Practices - If an organization professes, “people are our greatest asset,” it should also be ready to invest in people in visible ways. 
  • People - No company can build a coherent culture without people who either share its core values or possess the willingness and ability to embrace those values.

"Culture is back on the corporate agenda. As leaders deal with the demands of increased complexity – whether managing financial and environmental risk, navigating new markets, assimilating new types of technologies, or building a strategy for organic growth – many recognize the momentum that comes with a responsive, energized culture."  – Art Kleiner and Rutger von Post.

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