Bonnie responded to our client in 1996 that it would typically take more than 15 years to change company culture. After more than 20 years, my response to my clients remains the same with regards to time taken for organizational cultural change.
Why did I say so? Well, in reality, cultural change involves people of diverse backgrounds, values, interests, and needs. Companies continue to face difficulties in transforming organizational culture. There is a need to translate the meaning of culture and values to every employee in the company. The translation or interpretation of values is equally challenging in many instances.
Most HR organizations would define organizational core values in detail, providing examples or evidence to illustrate the expected behaviors. All core HR processes covering recruitment to performance evaluation and development incorporate the definition of organizational values. However, most company leaders still find that lack of right culture and mindsets of their people is often the major stumbling block to the company’s progress in strategic or transformation initiatives.
From my experience and lessons learned from others, I believe that leadership model behaviors are simply the best way to change organizational culture. Leaders should model the values that they expect of their people. They should be held accountable for modeling organizational behaviors.
Leaders should live and model the behaviors of the organizational culture in their daily work routines. When working with the leaders, the direct reports would have developed the required values consciously or unconsciously. They would then model the behaviors when they delegate the responsibilities to the next level of employees. Such leadership model behaviors will then be cascaded down to the lowest level of employees and eventually permeate the entire organization.
In conclusion, leaders must demonstrate the beliefs of the company and reinforce behaviors that reflect those values. They must make the change to see the change they wish for the company.