Three scenarios of corporate culture change

From birth to old age, the company culture is not embedded in the same way. Hence it is essential to take a differentiated approach to corporate culture change.

The main reason why a corporate culture change fails is the lack of awareness of what the specific culture of the company is. Although it can be observed via the behaviours of employees, leaders are often blind to it until something unexpected and critical for the organisation happens. As it was the case for Uber and United Airlines. But waiting for such a wake-up call might be lethal as the company may not be able to readjust the culture in time and recover from the public blow.

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A full stack approach to corporate culture change

Avoiding the usual pitfalls of culture change means focusing on coherence and meaning.

Even when most of the “right” ingredients were implemented, most corporate culture changes fail anyway. And the quintessential trap is always the same: the culture of a company is a multi-layered assemblage. Work on one layer at a time (such as the behaviours) and you’ll have results. However, after a while, other layers that were unchanged (values, vision…) will collide and counteract the initial results. These various elements of corporate culture move at different speeds. They don’t even have the same plasticity and are driven by factors that can be very counter-intuitive. In the end, avoiding a full-stack approach to corporate culture change is a rookie mistake. Let’s see then how to deal with it…

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Why culture change fails

Companies are making many different attempts to change their cultures as they realise that it has become critical if they want to survive in their rapidly evolving markets.

When dealing with corporate culture change, companies usually choose among three main strategies. Every one of them has obvious benefits but often is badly implemented because the overall logic of culture change is not understood. One of the usual trap is that culture change is often too directive, and directing hundreds or thousands of people to behave differently, to think differently, to make different decisions, to have risk mindset… becomes an impossible task. Here we’ll explore the three usual ways to change organisational culture follow, see their benefits, and why they fail. This will lead us in a follow up article to open a different approach more rooted in how the organisation’s DNA and its culture intertwine.

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