At the Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) Conference pre-workshop, I had the great pleasure of participating in a conversation regarding the challenge of addressing culture, or changing culture in an organization. The insights from many colleagues in this dynamic field is invaluable and I would like to share some of it here.

Culture changes are more challenging primarily because they are less finite, less defined, and therefore may make leaders uncomfortable in addressing them.

Traditional change management approaches focus on the individual's transition from a current to a future state. The individuals' transition in aggregate enables an organizational shift to the future state. This approach may not be enough to support a culture change.

Why?

The culture of an organization is the way things really work (especially when no one is looking). It is independent of the assets of a traditional change management initiative: process documents, systems, roles and responsibility documents.

Instead culture is:

  • Created over time
  • Informal, social and organic in nature
  • Embedded in stories people tell about the organization
  • An individual's truth about the organization

How to address this? Perhaps, instead of readiness assessments, sponsor action plans, and learning strategies, the following tools will better support a culture change.

  • Culture assessment / analysis
  • Leadership coaching
  • Evolving plans, fewer controls
  • Whole system thinking
  • Facilitation, collaboration; large group processes
  • Storytelling
  • Knowledge Management
  • Social Networking

These tools enable the change management professional to focus on the organization's transformation as opposed to the individual's transition.