Shifting an organization's culture begins when the leaders of an organization realize the need for change. As a leader within your organization, you may be asking yourself, "How do I know if it's time to change my organization's culture?" or "Why would I change my organization's culture?" Recognizing the need to change is the first and perhaps one of the most difficult steps in the culture shift journey. However, when executed properly, the culture transformation will reward the dedicated organization with an aligned culture resulting in improved performance and long-term sustainability.
Below are some warning signs which may indicate it is time for an organizational culture shift. This is not a comprehensive list, but each item listed below is an indication that something needs to change and that "something" is likely your organization's culture.
If the results of your organization do not align with the expectations or there is an unexplainable lack of goal fulfillment, this could mean the current culture may not be in alignment with the goals of your organization. Consistent underperformance suggests a lack of understanding, ability or interest to perform better. A misaligned culture can derail an organization's mission and strategy regardless of how good they are. For example, employees may not feel safe to voice their concerns or suggest new ideas to their managers, or they may choose to hoard their knowledge and not share with their co-workers for fear of losing their jobs. These behaviors are signs the organization's culture is not facilitating the achievement of the desired results. Assessing the current culture and taking steps to achieve the right culture will result in long-term sustainability and increased performance.
Loss of Star Performers
You spend a lot of time and money to hire the right people with the right skills, but a few months later they leave, and you have to go through the hiring process all over again. This may happen occasionally, but if highly skilled individuals are consistently leaving within a short period of time, this could indicate a culture issue. Every organization wants to hire and maintain the best talent, but you can't allow your culture to hinder your ability to hire and retain great talent. Understanding the issues that are causing them to leave is the first step and then shifting the culture accordingly is the next (easier said than done of course).
Visible Decline in Key Metrics
When key organizational metrics are not being met, it is time to identify the root causes and implement corrective action. Part of the change may be the culture, as the culture needs to support the behaviors aligned with the key metrics. For example, if innovation is a key metric and the expectations are not met, it may be that the current culture does not allow employees to collaborate or the workplace does not foster a team environment. If that's the case, it is time to start working on aligning your culture to enable innovation. If the metrics of your organization are not being met, the current culture may not be supporting the behaviors that align with successful metrics.
Customers are Jumping Ship for Similar Providers
Is your competition doing very well while your organization is struggling? Has revenue started to dip and there has been no significant change in the economic climate or change in your organization's offering? It may be time to examine your culture. If you can't remain competitive your culture needs to change. Perhaps your current culture does not allow your employees to make meaningful connections with your customers. Or maybe employees do not feel empowered to make appropriate decisions in a timely manner. These scenarios are indicative of a culture needing to change.
These are some of the trigger points which may indicate a culture transformation may be needed within your organization. A cultural shift requires patience and experience to dig through the noise to determine the underlying cultural factors causing organizational distress. Once identified there are some key steps to take to start building the future state culture.