What Kills Change?

 
 

I recently met with a traditional organisation in London who wants to ‘upgrade their culture’.  Like many, they believe that their culture will change if they give it enough time.
 
But time does not change cultures.  On the contrary, it finds and reinforces the reasons for why things won’t ever change: “IT always has other priorities”, “she never listens”, “people don’t work together here”, “nobody cares”, etc.
 
Change is not a function of time but of courage, the courage to decide.
 
The ending ‘-cide’ in decide (like in homicide or suicide) means ‘to kill off’.  In this case, to stop what doesn’t reinforce the culture.
 
When it comes to Culture Change, many organisations struggle to decide on old policies, procedures and ways of working that no longer make sense.
 
I heard a passionate head of HR defending the company’s ‘Employee Loyalty Reward’ (ELR, as they call it).  ”We’ve always done it that way and everyone looks forward to the announcements at our Christmas dinner” he uttered with pride, as he boasted his own golden watch with the company logo, marking his ‘first 25 years’ with the firm.
 
This ‘innocent’ tradition has been broadcasting a powerful message over the years: the most important thing here is that you stay forever.  In people’s minds, this became much stronger than the organisation’s need for customer focus and disruptive innovation.
 
What decisions is your organisation not having the courage to make?  Does your organisational culture feel dissonant, unwilling to kill-off some old practices?  Is change only superficial and expectations deferred, in the hope that time will magically change everything?