Ongoing changes are an everlasting state for most organizations. The outside pressures like increasing economical demands, customer needs, global competition and technical developments force companies to either adapt or react by continuously developing their own activities. Because there is no place to hide.
Typically organizations meet these pressures with faster service and product development, recurring cost reduction programs, reorganizations, investments in IT technology as well as by mergers and acquisitions. This is what we define as »change«, often experienced as continuous and chaotic. Most of us – managers in particular – feel that there is no escape from this rat race. Even if the business situation is as described, not many leaders invest in the organization’s capability or culture to manage improvements. Those who choose to make the effort encounter massive difficulties, very slow development and resistance. The successful management concepts have one thing in common: they turn improvement and innovation into a common practice within the organization. Improvement is the key to managerial efficiency. And for most organizations, this is a major cultural shift. The only sustainable competitive advantage is to learn and improve faster than your competitors. Consider culture as a strategic asset: What kind of strategic change program is needed to accomplish such a cultural shift? How to achieve a culture where people are looking for improvements in all their efforts? The game does certainly differ from any cost reduction or reorganization program.
- Create an energizing vision
The vision is not just a statement of the current situation and an attempt to describe the future. It should rather be about a new approach to understanding management and creating value. This does not mean that managers only ask their employees to adopt a brand new attitude but they have to start with themselves. The cultural shift is launched with an education program, where managers learn and share new ideas. This program implements effective, participative and innovative working methods to create an inspiring atmosphere, and also to touch the emotional side of people. Creating and discussing the vision helps to understand the need and the urgency of change.
- Design the new architecture
People responsible for the change program need to be nominated and trained. Their most important task is to design a new architecture that supports the new way to manage and improve the value creation. The new construct should consist of language, models, roles and rhythm. Characteristically the new management philosophy requires new roles in the organization. In traditional organizations, these new roles are usually taken over by line managers, although they often do not know how to improve. Therefore, it is essential that the nominees are well-chosen and -trained.
- Plan the road map
The next step is to plan the change program and projects. The cultural shift change program is a learning process. The whole change program is more like a new way of life rather than a project, which typically proceeds from one state to another. It will never end, learning and improving will continue indefinitely.
- Establish communication and engagement
A cultural shift requires a new mindset, a brand new attitude and behavior. The key issue is to understand who the stakeholders are. All these people will be affected by the new leadership system. So, why should they support the initiative? Why should they not resist the change? The more commitment we need, the more engagement is required. People are more likely to commit to activities they have planned themselves. So it is not only a matter of skillful change communication or dialog but of how to create time and space for effective participation and efficient involvement.
- Measure and avoid risk
Whenever the management team takes over the responsibility to implement the change program, they typically follow everything associated to cost and time. Yet, they should also consider assuring that the new processes, practices and standards would improve performance and value creation. This is a quality issue. Always try to pilot or experiment the new practice. Attempt to strengthen those practices delivering better performance and avoid the ones which do not work. The key to prevention action is to identify risk and threats. The most critical risks need to be evaluated, addressed and avoided – if possible.
- High-performance organization
As the road leads through the social system of the company, it is complex by nature. »Change Dialog« is the key word here. Change Dialog can be described as a new methodology for realizing change and innovation in order to achieve an optimum performance.
- Start today
Culture is a strategic issue, the vision creates the necessary sense of urgency. Since it takes time to learn a new way of thinking, to adopt new attitudes and a new behavior, it is important that you get started today.