Building a Culture that is Aligned

Success in speeding up the culture change will only come when everyone’s actions, beliefs and experiences are aligned from person to person and across the various functions of the company. The more completely aligned the culture, the more everyone will concentrate on achieving the key results the organization wants to achieve.

In order to achieve the desired results, leaders must become effective at saying and doing things that foster the experiences that create or reinforce the beliefs that motivate the desired actions that produce performance improvements.

They must avoid saying or doing things that shifts the culture out of alignment, for example, praising and promoting an employee who does not demonstrate the organization’s cultural beliefs in his or her everyday work.

Leaders should understand that employment promotions create a lasting experience on employees at the same time instill different beliefs on them. Promoting people who do not live your organization’s cultural beliefs is likened to a company travelling hundred miles per hour on an icy road, headed toward a cliff. Effective leaders of culture change manage in a way that gets a culture aligned with results, and then they work to keep it aligned.

Transforming from one culture of unsatisfactory performance delivery to one of highly satisfactory performance delivery requires paying close attention to all the adjusting parts of your organization’s culture and making sure that they are accurately aligned to one another.

Neither meaningful nor rapid culture change will occur unless the experiences, beliefs and actions are aligned with and reinforce the key results or performance to be achieved.

If the culture (experiences, beliefs, actions and results) is out of alignment, employees will pursue their own agendas at the expense of organizational goals and objectives, stress levels run high, decisions are made based on gut feeling rather than on facts and information and enterprise performance is painfully poor.

The opposite holds true, if the culture is aligned and there is goal congruence, there will be accelerated positive culture change, everyone stays on the same page, people feel less stressed, decisions are intelligently made using analytic-based information and facts and enterprise performance is positive.

Like managing culture, maintaining alignment is a process, not an event. You may gain complete alignment around key performance improvements and cultural beliefs, but at some point, there is need to continuously improve from these performance levels for long-term success. If you have successfully delivered the desired results before, you must be confident that you can do it again.

Culture management is not something you can do once and then leave alone. Culture always needs to be managed relative to the results or performance you are working to achieve.¬†Your company’s culture will not stay in alignment by itself.

There will always be constant forces threatening to push you, your team, your organization etc out of alignment. As a leader, you must remain on the guard, identifying any lack of alignment and striking quickly to correct the problem.

As research has shown that most change initiatives often face resistance and fail to deliver the hoped-for results, in order to get buy-in from the entire organization, leaders need to get key people on board who will take ownership for the change process, produce enough alignment and positive momentum to keep the change effort energized and moving forward.

Additionally, leaders must be able to built a positive case for change by clearly clarifying why the culture needs changing and also why the organization needs to do it now.

They can do this by making the case for change real, applicable to the audience, simple and repeatable, convincing and making it a dialogue.

To ensure alignment around key decisions with individuals, teams or the entire organization, leaders must get the appropriate people involved, create accountability by identifying who will make the decision, foster discussion to ensure that people speak up and are heard, support ownership by promoting decision-making at every organizational level, be consistent with the message of culture change and follow-up to check in and test for alignment.

Closing Thoughts: The more effectively management teams align themselves and their entire organization around the cultural transition, the faster the organization will move toward a game-changing cultural transition.

Nothing more powerfully affects a successful cultural transition outcome than a management team fully aligned around results, the case for change, the cultural beliefs and the culture the methodology for changing culture. Either you will manage culture or it will manage you.

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2 Comments

  1. Hey Peter,

    Great article here. When it comes to risk management, the cultural alignment is led by management. It’s also important to note that policies, procedures, and training are – on their own – ineffective at ensuring compliance. Compliance comes from the attitude and environment that’s created by management in the workplace.

    I wrote an interesting article that includes 3 strategies to help manage risk culture. What are your thoughts?

    http://matthew-hardesty.com/management-strategies/3-strategies-for-managing-risk-culture/

  2. Peter Chisambara

    June 11, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Hey Matthew,

    Thanks for your comment. It is true that an organization might have all the policies, procedures, training etc in place but if the culture is off, there is no tangible benefit whatsoever to the organization. Experiences are the drivers of performance. Bad experiences will always have negative implications on performance.

    I like the three points you raise in your article. The reason why we still see many organizations making blind decisions based on gut feel and not aknowledging risks presence is because of the way they view risk. Gone are the days where risk management was the police guard of the organization. Risk management is now an enabler of value creation.

    Proper acknowledgement by senior management that risks do exist is helping them identify threats to strategy formulation and execution. Ultimately, these senior managers are best positioned to make informed decisions that not only preserve corporate value, but also increase it.

    Transparency and respect for risk is shown by the way the leaders prioritise enterprise risk management. If the tone from upstairs is dull, the behaviours at the bottom will trully reflect this. If leaders only listen to their own voices and refuse advice and education on risk awareness, asessment and management from unit managers etc, results achieved will also reflect this.

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