Culture transformation: 11 Lessons learned from 11 top consultancies

Changing the culture is a daunting endeavour for any organization. This post gives you the keys to success for cultural change as defined by top firms such as McKinsey, Deloitte, BCG, KornFerry/ Hay, PWC, Gartner/ CEB, Barret Values Centre, EY,  Booz & Company, KPMG, Heidrick & Struggles ...

Let's assume you did your homework: measure and understand the current culture, define the desired future one - aligned with the company's strategy - and identify the gap to close. You've adopted a culture change methodology and now want to check to what extend your approach follows the best practices.

Below you'll find a curated list of eleven culture change tips based on lessons learned by some of the world's most renowned consulting firms.

1. Top commitment and ownership

A culture change initiative must be personally supervised by the CEO and fully supported by the leadership team. Cultural transformation is not something that can be delegated, nor can it be handed off to a team of outside consultants.
(Barrett Values Centre)

2. Take an 'open source' approach to change

John Kotter's Eight-Step Approach, Prosci's ADKAR Model or most other change models have value. But work today is different than it was a few years ago and leading employees through change, from the top down won't do the job. Seek to integrate a crowdsourcing change: (1) a co-created change strategy; (2) employee ownership of change implementation plans (cultural changes must have employee “fingerprints” on them); and (3) communications that “ask & talk” instead of the old “sell & tell”.
(Accenture - Gartner/ CEB)

3. Focus on a few changes at the a time

You can't change corporate culture like you trade in a new car. Change is hard, so choose your battles. Focus your efforts on those two or three behaviour shifts that will have the greatest impact. To determine impact, consider conducting "safe space" discussions with thoughtful people at different levels throughout the company.
(Korn Ferry/ Hay - Booz & Company)

4. Honor existing strenghts

If you can find ways to demonstrate the relevance of the original values and share stories that illustrate why people believe in them, they can still serve your company well. Acknowledging the existing culture’s assets will also make major change feel less like a top-down imposition and more like a shared evolution.
(Korn Ferry/ Hay - Booz & Company)

5. Combine structural with personal alignment

By all means, reconfigure systems and processes. But also ensure the extended leadership group and their direct reports focus on their personal mastery by seeking feedback and receiving (peer) coaching. Ideally all managers communicate the right message. When it comes to cultural change, executives must lead by doing.
(Accenture - EY - Barrett Values Centre)

6. Don't forget informal mechanisms

Most leaders favour formal, rational moves and neglect the informal, more emotional side of the organization. Don't get me wrong, adjusting formal interventions - e.g. hiring guidelines, leadership development, performance management, career advancement, succession management, annual planning meetings - is good. But don't overlook informal interventions such as peer interactions, internal communities, changes to physical layout ...
(BCG - Bain - Booz & Company)

7. Engage team managers

The objective is to involve all employees. Engaging workers on an individual basis is important because organizational culture is the sum of all employee behaviors. Line managers have tremendous power to unlock cultural change.
(McKinsey - Accenture)

8. Make an emotional connection

Change happens through the heart. Use three ways to emotionally connect to the workforce. First highlight the value that employees create for society. Every company serves a goal greater than maximizing shareholder returns. Secondly, show examples from the top. Leaders can do far more than just make rational appeals. Their stories and actions have a power far beyond their directives. Thirdly, use participation. By linking the deeds of individuals at any level to larger goals, leaders can give meaning to even the most ordinary action.

9. Recognize & reward role models

Recognize, celebrate and reward everyday actions that demonstrate desired behaviour. Share stories from and about role models. By intentionally focusing on the positive, you grow the behaviour and culture you want to see.
(EY - KPMG - Barrett Values Centre)

10. Address unproductive behaviours

Leaders are deeply accountable for the success of a change effort. Their alignment should be visible, consistent and sustained. Apart from role modeling, leaders at all levels should actively identify and act to remedy unproductive behaviours.

11. Measure to create accountability

That which gets measured, gets paid attention to. As culture transformation is not a project but a journey, often a long one. To make sure the organization is and remains on the right path, we should have indicators on how effective the change effort is. One way to measure progress is to use a core value recognition program and use the collected data as a dashboard for cultural change.
(EY - Heidrick & Struggles)

Koen Schreurs
Motivation & Recognition Expert

PS. Are you convinced your organization needs a culture makeover but need arguments to convince senior leadership? Be sure to read 2 Things on Company Culture You’ll Wish You Knew Before.








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HR News: Culture transformation: 11 Lessons learned from 11 top consultancies
Culture transformation: 11 Lessons learned from 11 top consultancies
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