Culture Change is a Complex Process
Make sense of it with actionable advice from experts on the front lines.
Make sense of it with actionable advice from experts on the front lines.
Nod your head if you have ever heard, seen or (heaven forbid), quoted this statistic: “70% of change efforts fail.”
You nodded, right? Let’s face it; the 70% failure statistic is dramatic. It builds the case for hiring experienced change practitioners. It cautions implementers to learn about change management practices and integrate them into their tactical tasks.
Unfortunately, it’s a made-up number. Back in the 90s, Michael Hammer speculated about the success rate of re-engineering projects and since then, authors and speakers have cited 70% as the failure rate for all types of change programs. Several change practitioners have dug into the change archives and vigorously refuted it. (See here, here and here.) Yet, it persists.
Even if no one had refuted the number, I stopped believing it years ago. As a measurement practitioner, I have found that:
Given all this evidence against it, how can anyone state with such certainty that 70% of change projects fail?
The actual results of mergers and acquisitions don’t always live up to expectations.
M&A growth strategies promise a multitude of strategic opportunities; from rapid growth, to elimination of competition, to access to new markets. And many organizations are currently, or have, embarked on merger and acquisition growth strategies to varying effect.
When asked about the primary causes of these mixed results, most leaders cite a misalignment between the two organizations’ cultures. This friction can wreak havoc as the members of different groups assimilate to drive the performance gains that M&A strategies forecast.
By Sofia Quintero
I stopped dieting for weight loss purposes 15 years ago. My brain finally understood what I knew all along; diets deplete willpower, make you fat, unhealthy and unhappy.
Instead of dieting, I’ve been doing the obvious — eat what I want, when I want it, in a balanced way. The results are as expected; better health and consistent weight for over a decade. No restrictions, no stress.
There are a lot of things in life that work the same way. Intellectually we understand a wide range of facts and theories; however, it can take decades before we can truly put that knowledge into practice. Why is that? I think there are many reasons. But one powerful reason is our ability to rationalize everything. We convince ourselves that it can’t be that easy.
But, it is.
Business practices are the same; there is a ton of common sense and wisdom around us but we choose to make things complicated, potentially out of fear. After all, it can’t be that easy, right?
No offense to your MBA, but you learned everything you need to know about being an executive in kindergarten. Business schools provide the strategies necessary to run companies, but true leadership comes down to understanding people.
Think back to your first day of kindergarten. Unless you were a wildly outgoing 5-year-old, you probably felt shy and scared. What if I don’t make any friends? What if the schoolwork is hard? What if I miss my mom? These anxieties aren’t all that different from those experienced by business leaders (aside from the mom part). The fix is the same as it was back then: Be brave. Walk into the room, do your best, and work to build new connections.
I’ve worked with numerous intelligent, capable executives who have years of relevant experience. They often suffer from insecurities that we all face at some point in our lives. One of the more common issues is imposter syndrome, which causes otherwise qualified leaders to struggle with the fear of being “found out.” This can cause people to question their every action and isolate themselves from colleagues.
Leaders who struggle with feelings of inadequacy are reluctant to confide in their peers. They stuff their feelings and eventually end up living in a lonely leadership fishbowl. Given that solitary leaders are less effective than their more sociable peers, their fears of falling short often come true.
Sharing your uncertainties is unbelievably liberating; it also humanizes you and lets your team know you care. Escape the leadership fishbowl by embracing your vulnerability.
Elon Musk acts like space is the next frontier, but business pioneers know true innovation is happening on terra firma. Instead of exploring the cosmos, business leaders are experimenting with office dynamics. The 21st-century workplace is characterized by perpetual changes and increasingly unconventional setups.
Our ancestors would have trouble recognizing our employee-centered office spaces and working arrangements. Telecommuting has become commonplace for many small and large organizations, and most companies have a global focus — internationally-based employees, vendors, and clients are par for the course. Thankfully, communication is instantaneous with technology such as email, real-time messaging, virtual meetings, and synchronous conference calls.
How accustomed are we to this brave new work world? When children photo-bombed their father’s international interview on the BBC, society laughed it off because of how commonplace that scenario has become. Workers adore this ever-changing environment, but it can be problematic for business leaders.
As our business environment continues to evolve and adopt a digital-first mindset, the percentage of people working on DevOps teams increases every year.
Organizations that have successfully adopted DevOps are able to deliver a better customer experience with significantly greater operational efficiency. And the writing seems to be on the wall: organizations that don’t embrace these ways of working will likely be left in the dust.
But where to start? With all the noise about DevOps lately, it’s difficult for CIOs and other leaders to find an authoritative source of information.
That’s where the annual State of DevOps Report comes in. For the past six years, Puppet and the DevOps Research and Assessment Group (DORA) have partnered to produce a set of research that is regarded—in many circles—as the first and last word on DevOps.
The numbers are out.
It’s been over fifty years since Title VII, the section of The Civil Rights Act that prohibits workplace discrimination. But how far have we really come?
Fortune’s data team recently released their findings on the diversity and inclusion practices of the companies on this year’s Fortune 500 list. The big reveal?
Only 3% of this year’s companies are transparent about the demographics of their workforce. And of those sixteen transparent companies, 72% of senior executives are white males.
Now, more than ever, companies and organizations are feeling pressure to not only be more representative but also more inclusive of people from traditionally marginalized groups. Reports on gender and racial diversity in tech have forced the industry to make public commitments to increase diversity in their workplaces and inspired other companies to do the same.
Millennials are demanding more inclusive work cultures. Our sociopolitical environment has made conversations about the inclusion of marginalized people in every area of life absolutely critical. And according to Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Report, 78% of respondents now believe diversity and inclusion is a competitive advantage.
But if major companies can’t even talk publicly about diversity, what do conversations inside of these organizations look like?
Not long ago, promotions went to employees with the most technical expertise. Companies bent over backward to gain specialized industry knowledge, so it made sense to promote based on its merit. But the times, as they say, are a-changin’. At a certain point in history, technical ingenuity began to take a back seat to interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. In fact, a recent study by Harris Poll found that 77 percent of employers believe these “soft skills” are as important as talents directly related to specific job functions.
I witnessed this shift while working with one female executive who rose through the ranks to a senior position based on her technical prowess. Those skills opened numerous doors on her path to leadership, but she suddenly experienced a bit of a disconnect.
This new role put her in charge of a team, and her instincts took over when team members presented solutions to problems. She would fall back on her years of experience to provide better answers. This gradually caused employees to rely on her whenever they had problems instead of trying to solve them on their own. She continued to “show them the way” but soon faced resistance and plummeting morale — to the point that human resources received negative comments about her leadership style.
She had built her career on technical smarts, but her performance measure no longer relied on those abilities. Success was now achieved by her ability to build relationships, develop employees, and motivate a high-performing team.
In other words, she lacked what most modern companies crave: emotional intelligence.
By Mark Tomaszewicz
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu
Transforming your culture is about changing individuals first and the organization next. Change is a result. That’s right, organizational change is a result of an individual change.
There are many definitions of culture. The one that I like the best is “what a group of people choose to believe and consistently do”. Changing your company culture means you are:
a) Changing what you believe,
b) Changing what you do, or
c) Finding a way to do more consistently
One of the greatest challenges for rapidly growing organizations is how to remain nimble in the midst of growth.
As companies scale, more processes are required to coordinate the growing workforce. And the additional management layers that come with them can slow an organization down.
It’s often the reason why large organizations become weighed down with bureaucracy while small companies remain quick and agile.
Consider this recent story from Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes:
“Earlier this year, an employee wanted to send a customer a T-shirt with our logo as a gift. There was nothing special about this particular shirt. It was an ordinary, 100% cotton crew neck. But by the time this employee got approval—factoring in his own time and everyone else’s up the org chart who had to weigh in before signing off on the request—the cost of this t-shirt had ballooned to at least $200.”
Many organizations today are trying to hedge against inflated processes like these by changing their organizational structures. Hootsuite, for example, appointed a “Czar of Bad Systems” to help improve internal processes.
In today’s rapidly-evolving business environment, growing organizations need to remain fast and efficient. And some large, geographically dispersed and complex organizations seem to be able to maintain a level of agility despite their size.
How do they do it?