Why is it bad to work on culture?
Because, while you are wasting time on the organisation’s culture you are missing opportunities to impact time, quality, safety, innovation and cost. That simple. Let me explain.
“We just don’t have the culture for this type of change…”
Such comment is what I typically hear when I’m working on a change project with an organisation and things are slowing down, drifting or failing.
Culture, this big, nebulous thing that organisations struggle to get their arms around. It becomes a catchall reason for failure.
“It’s not our fault, people just aren’t accountable or responsible. It’s the culture around here and we won’t succeed until we change the culture.”
Culture becomes the focus for the project and, in the blink of an eye, the years have passed, and the culture still has not changed.
What about if I told you that the problem is not the culture. In fact, culture is not an issue at all. The problem is in the way people view the reason for project slowdown, drift or failure, which often means distancing themselves from failure by attaching failure to something bigger than them. What’s the biggest thing of all? Culture!
Instead of lamenting the shortcomings of the organisation’s culture, why not take the opportunity to deconstruct the problem in a different way? Why/ Because when the operationalisation of a change project is drifting, the reasons can often be brought back to missed opportunities to tweak three key areas: behaviours, processes, and structures.
If you focus on changing organisation behaviours, structures and processes to align with the organisation’s mission, vision, goals, values, and standards, you will get the culture you want. Work on culture and you can spend years in the desert walking around in circles.
The challenge then, instead of talking problems with culture, is to simply take the opportunity to explore the reasons for your problems by examining changes that could be made to improve behaviours, structure and processes.
Of course, you could just keep talking culture. If you do, ask yourself, what is the impact on time, quality, safety, innovation, and cost while you talk, and talk, and talk?