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Something has to change – so long as it’s not me!

So, you want to change your organisations culture? Take a breath, what you are about to embark on is not easy, and is certainly not for the faint hearted. The prevailing paradigm will protect itself and it is more than capable of doing so.

There are reasons, some of them still pertinent, as to why people behave the way they do in your organisation. Some of these reasons, rather uncomfortably, may be to do with you and how you behave. This is potentially difficult territory you are about to enter, so prepare your ego, it may get unintentionally bruised.

Mind the Cowdung – the conventional wisdom of the dominant group

The first question you need to be clear about is why do you want to change the culture? What is evidently true, is that the culture you have now is perfectly tuned to give you the results and behaviours you are getting now. You may well be dissatisfied with these results and behaviours, but your personal desire to change things, no matter what your position in the organisation, will not in itself be a big enough force to shift the prevailing paradigm. Check out my blog on culture and cowdung.

The culture of your organisations is a complex, systemic set of embedded habits, rituals and behaviours that have built up over time. These behaviours are observed and followed by the dominant group, those credible influencers and leaders that everyone turns to in times of change. If you are embarking on the journey to change culture, it is with this group that the challenge of culture change has to start.

Small Behaviour Nudges Can Trim Your Organisational Culture

The good news is that carefully considered and well executed small nudges can have big effects. In recent years, behavioral scientists have entered this field with some fascinating insights and research.

I recently participated in a session led by April Vellacott, who along with her fellow author Jez Groom, have published a book entitled ‘Ripple – the big effects of small behaviour changes in business – published by Harriman House. Both have been studying and consulting in the field of human behaviour for several years and the book is full of examples and anecdotes of how small behaviour changes can have wide-reaching effects in the real world.

I have seen the power of small changes in habits and rituals myself whilst helping leadership teams improve their team performance. Simple changes always work best. For example always starting a meeting, session and agenda item with a clearly articulated purpose statement, this can have a dramatic effect on helping the meeting stay tuned to the point in hand. Then, at the end of a meeting, always taking 5 minutes to capture ‘what worked well’ and what would be ‘even better if’; this is another great habit that begins to embed a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Whilst many examples are available, at the start of the culture change process, the real challenge is a very personal one. What are you going to change that will begin to nudge the behaviours of the people you interact with towards the preferred culture you want to see. You may well need help in seeing what these changes can be, as we are all far too close to the trees to be able to see the forest we are in. A good starting point is to reflect on the 10 habits of effective leaders and see which of these you need to work on.

If I can help you with this thinking then please do not hesitate to contact me.