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Changing Culture: A Delta Partners White Paper

Geoff Schaadt

Changing Culture is a new white paper from Delta Partners.

 

“We have to change our culture.”

This is the opening line from a new White Paper by Delta Partners' Senior Consultant, Geoff Schaadt. It's a statement that is made by far too many senior executives who don't truly understand the depth of the phrase. This paper was written for those same executives to help them understand what culture is, how it can be influenced, and the difficulty of creating real and lasting change in the culture that exists in every organization.

- Alcide

 

“We have to change our culture.”

It’s been muttered by every frustrated leader, in every organization, in both the public and the private sectors.

But what most of them mean is, “We have to change the way we do things around here.” Fundamentally, this is what the term “corporate culture” means: “the way things are done around here.”

Organizational culture is the sum of everything that makes up the modern workplace. It is the stated values of theorganization. And, more importantly, it is the unstated values that have never been codified – yet which every employee fully understands.

It includes the symbols of the organization. Some are obvious, like the organization’s logo or the mission and vision statements that hang so prominently in the main lobby. Others are not so obvious to the public—parking spaces, private offices when everyone else has been moved to the new “open” floorplan, and weeklong training sessions in Palm Desert.

Culture is the conversations that take place in the boardrooms, in the hallways, in the cube farm, and in the break rooms. And it is just as much the conversations that don’t take place. The jobs-well-done, the need-to-improves, and the disciplinary actions that never happen.

It is the stories that are told, the awards that are presented, the celebrations that are canceled, the myths that are perpetuated.

Culture is the “smell of the place,” that feeling you get when you spend any time in an organization, no matter how large or small.

Culture defines what is OK – and what isn’t. Culture defines right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, meaningful and meaningless.

Culture can be strong or it can be weak, but it always exists. And it exists because people who work together must understand “the way things are done around here.”

Changing Culture

Anyone who gives culture a thought can understand these concepts. The hard part is accepting how resilient culture is.

Because culture defines a globally accepted template for action within the organization, by its nature it exists to resist change. This is the critical point every leader must clearly understand: there is no aspect of an organization that is more difficult to change than the culture. An organization that has never prioritized things like shared leadership or cross-functional teams, and wishes to move in that direction, must realize that it is embarking on a journey. It will require time, perseverance, and committed leadership. There will be resistance, much of it passive and well hidden, and there will be failure.

To read the full White Paper, click here.

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