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Transforming Organizational Culture: Getting From Here To There

What do we mean by culture? When we talk of transforming the culture of an organization, we are referring to the systems, beliefs and ways of doing things (or not doing things) that live beyond its individuals, yet shape what is possible for them. To compete in today’s global market, a dynamic, healthy organization needs a culture that can adapt to the future. Yet much of what shapes organizational cultures is inherited from the past. It’s unobserved by us – something we have – but we often don’t know where it came from or why.

When you walked in the door for your ?rst day of work, most of the organizational structure was already in place. And chances are, much of it did not ?t with how you work or what you thought was possible, sensible, or efficient. For the most part, the culture was never consciously created. It just evolved – with both good and bad aspects – and was anchored by unwritten rules and attitudes.

History Of Organizations

To understand where the workplace culture came from, we need to look at where we came from. Our tradition of business grew out of the production-driven era of the Industrial Revolution. Its mindset was mechanical – focused primarily on prediction and control. All thinking, judgments, strategizing, speculating, planning and implementing were in the service of those two goals. People were told what to do. Fear and power were employed to make them do it.

Most of the leadership and management practices of today are rooted in the same discourse. The traditional “command-and-control” style of management and leadership overwhelmingly prevalent for the past 250 years got us where we are now, but won’t get us where we need to be tomorrow.

Our world is much more complex than it was in the 1750’s. In order to navigate and keep up with it, we need partnership – the sharing of ideas and trust. Today, businesses must be organic in nature – learning and changing, growing or shrinking as needed. The building of relationships, alliances, networks and partnerships is needed to maximize business opportunities with other individuals and organizations, each contributing a speci?c expertise or competence.

How Do We Change?

Culture change involves unearthing an inherited, unobserved culture so that we can recognize and take responsibility for what is not working and capitalize on what is. Organizational leaders who are committed to culture transformation recognize that the people in the organization have far more to offer than its existing structure allows. They recognize that if they want a company that enables creativity and learning, they will have to create it.

Once a leader commits to creating a participatory culture that values and nurtures the contributions of all its individuals, there are distinct aspects that must be addressed and nurtured multi-dimensionally to produce the desired transformation.

Learning, the embodiment of new actions, takes time, and culture change processes involve going through many stages of evolution. Organizations need to learn new competencies in communication – both speaking and listening. Then they need to go about healing past relationships and co-creating aligned commitments for the future. While Roundstone brings training, coaching and facilitation to this process, our clients are the ones who exhibit the courage to initiate a change and the patience, practice and perseverance to undergo it.

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