3 Skills Change Management Practitioners can Leverage To Create High-Performing Cultures

May 15, 2019 | Posted by Andre Low

Do you have to change the culture of your organisation or the mindset of your team?

Whenever a new group of professionals participate in our monthly CMC Prosci change management training programs, we notice that at least 30% bring with them large complex organisational changes, often requiring some sort of "culture" or "mindset" change.

In their project summaries submitted as prework, most participants are able to confidently articulate their project objectives and deliverables. However, they are often challenged to explain what a successful cultural or mindset change would look like in the context of their organisation. Participants also struggle to relate the impact of this successful transition to the future state in the delivery of incremental business results. Our observation is that this ambiguity in change definition is where most transformational changes start to fail at gaining traction with directly impacted managers and employees.

As Peter Drucker said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast."

While successful cultures appear and feel like magic, we cannot leave its evolution to "mysterious" ways and hope for the best without planning for the worse.

Portrait of businesswoman with headsets using computer at office desk

According to culture researcher and writer, Daniel Coyle, culture is "a set of living relationships working towards a shared goal". It does not come from any single individual trait or skill that its constituent members possess but something that they do as a result of synergised mental modes and behaviours, developed over a period of time in specific conditions. He studied some of the world's most successful teams and organisations - including Pixar, U.S. Navy's SEAL Team Six, and India's WIPRO and found common trends that set these high-performing cultures apart from the rest. He theorized that the following conditions need to be satisfied in order for teams and organisations to defuse tension and function constructively as one:

  1. Psychological Safety - characterised by close physical proximity, large amounts of eye contact and physical touch (hand shakes, fist bumps, hugs etc), short and energetic verbal exchanges (no long speeches), high level of mixing and interaction, intense active listening etc

  2. Shared Vulnerability - Establish habits of mutual risk to encourage and drive trusting collaboration and cooperation. Leaders showing weaknesses first and empowering the weakest position in the group to share equally.

  3. Established Purpose - Connected stories to build shared goals and purpose. Do we do average work or do we aim for glory? How many people have to die before we get our act together?

*Interesting tip: Never waste a good crisis. Most successful cultures are built in moments of peril and extreme difficulty.

In his book "The Culture Code", Daniel Coyle also generated many ideas for action that help to create the conditions for successful cultures to emerge. Change Management leaders and practitioners can use these guidelines and ideas to craft the future vision of their ideal organisational culture. The resulting insights can then be fed into their overall change management strategy to strengthen the structured change management process which will in turn increase the opportunity to truly realise benefits.

A structured change management process such as the Prosci Change Management methodology will significantly improve the adoption and usage of the desired behavioural changes required to implement the cultural changes. Prosci's ADKAR model for individual change and 3-phase change management process for organisational change - Preparing for Change, Managing Change and Reinforcing Change - combine effectively into a robust framework for organisations to sustainably adopt new ways of working associated with multiple change initiatives.

In conclusion, successful cultures do not happen coincidentally but through the ingenuity of ordinary team builders who unknowingly had the skills to build safety, shared vulnerability and established common purpose amongst their people. Take your time to hone these skills but waste no time if you have yet to pick up a structured process to manage your change. In Prosci's longitudinal benchmarking research, respondents (n= 4087) reported that projects with excellent change management practices (93%, n=354) are six times more likely to meet and/or exceed project objectives than those with poor or no change management (15%, n=496).

If your answer to my opening question is a yes, join us on one of our fun-filled, interactive and engaging Prosci Change Management Certification Programmes and learn for yourself how to manage your cultural change systematically so that you reap the full rewards of a successful culture!

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