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Category: culture

29 June 2012Culture change required!

Martin Ledigo

by Martin Ledigo

On the news bulletin on the Today programme this morning, the expression "culture change required" was used twice. If that can't prompt a blog from a culture change consultant then nothing can!

The news was dominated by discussion of banking, prompted by the coming to light of the issue of traders manipulating interest rates (as a side point why are people surprised about that – I heard about it 20 years ago when traders would bet the price of a cup of coffee on moving rates by a basis point). There was also the issue within the NHS of a departing Trust chief executive who signed a compromise agreement and was then not able to talk about patient safety issues. 

Many organisations say (and genuinely believe) that they want culture change. Achieving it is something quite different and extremely challenging. Firstly while we use the expression culture change you don't directly change culture – without this being a semantic issue we see culture as an outcome not an input. We would seek to help an organisation define a new set of behaviours that over time and with changes in processes, leadership style style, performance management, communications etc etc over would result in a new culture.

But the real challenge is that the old culture is very good at rejecting the new one. One client wanted to use an acquisition to change the culture within its own organisation to one that was more entrepreneurial and nimble. And I believe they truly wanted that to happen but the reality was that once the new boys started being entrepreneurial (and different) they were told in some many words "That's not how we do things around here". The acquisition failed to deliver the change required despite the best of intentions of all parties.

I once received an ITT that had been sent to most of the major consulting firms from the head of laboratories of a global pharma company that wanted to transforming the culture. It was the most detailed ITT I had ever seen that set out everything that you would ever want to ask and even specified exactly how they wanted the work done. At our pitch meeting where a group of us met to discuss how we could respond, my suggestion was to tear it up and send it back to them with a message "if you want to change your culture don't start here". This was in part to try and differentiate us from the other 50 firms who would respond but mainly because they were already well on their way to recreating the existing culture. Maybe with some new aspirations and new words but at the end of the day it was New Culture 0 Old Culture 3.

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Categories: behaviourculture

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