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What is your #1 Culture Change Principle?

Work culture is a funny thing. You can fit it into the equation Performance = Potential – Interference, but in practice, making cultural change happen is far from simple. You must overcome interference to employee potential, including the filters that people use to screen out ideas about change – not that people fear change. What they really fear is being changed. So how does one get past the various barriers of cultural change in the workplace? Pearl Zhu writing for Future of CIO has a few suggestions.

Principles of Change

  • Leadership / Role Modeling
  • Communication
  • Sound Strategy / Systems
  • Thinking Trust / Relationship Management

A leader can be a force for change or its nemesis. Being a good role model can certainly generate the desired cultural change, but first people need to be willing to accept that change, and that is where context becomes all-important. Leaders must learn about the culture they are trying to change by communicating effectively across the organization (that means listening more than talking). Once the change leader has an accurate picture of what needs to be done, they can then turn to strategy by designing organizational systems that help employees conform to the desired outcomes. The process doesn’t stop there. In order to drive cultural change to align with new objectives, the leader must consistently weave a compelling story that builds upon an existing story, while being ever careful to trod on the cultural mechanisms that are working. The final and greatest hurdle of any change leader according to Zhu is gaining and maintaining the trust necessary to foster lasting changes:

Without trust, change becomes a game that everybody plays but nobody wins. Without trust, growth potential cannot be accessed because people will not be free to speak about problems that steal potential and divide people. Mistrust is the root cause of so many problems that we tend to accept as normal barriers to change…

In truth, if a proposed change is at odds with an existing value system at the company, a bumpy road lies ahead. But with the right change vehicle (and with a competent driver), it doesn’t have to be a bad trip.  

Read the full post at:

Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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