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It’s About Being the Custodian of Behaviours

March 4, 2016

It’s about being the custodian of behaviours

Peter Ray, L&D partner at Premier Foods, shares his insight on stimulating organisational vision and culture change.

I have observed the ‘vision question’ in different organisations and in different scenarios. In many ways, embedding and transforming organisational vision is something you never complete, something that’s never ‘finished’.

The first organisation was an international company, with a culture change programme initiated by the group board, and launched with a considerable investment and fanfare. Once it was cascaded down from group to divisional level there was a general feeling this was being imposed from above; it was coming from ‘the group’, and people felt like they were being dictated to.

A key factor was that the divisional leadership team did not get visibly involved, to demonstrate that they were in full support of the aims and objectives. So, because the senior team did not appear to have got behind it, the middle and lower levels of the organisation did not either, resulting in poor outcomes for the project.

The second organisation was a very different: the organisation had undergone had a very public period of turmoil and the new leadership team wanted to reinvigorate the business urgently. So there was a sense of ‘burning deck’ in that everyone knew ‘something’ had to be done.

A three-year culture change programme was initiated, with the impetus coming clearly from the CEO. The fact it was spelled out upfront that it was a three-year initiative was significant in that it gave a clear message, both internally and externally, this was not a quick fix.

Initiatives were piloted and there was a phased rolled out. There were milestones that could be met along the way, there was clear communication and a willingness to do things differently, not least because we knew we had no option but to. The management team made it their own priority but also a priority that they took people along with them; they saw it through and the initiative delivered on the majority of its objectives.

Ultimately, the senior leadership team needs to see itself as the custodian of behaviours within an organisation as much as custodian of the bottom line; it needs to give these two equal status. Otherwise nothing will change.

There are four key elements to successful organisational transformation:

1. You have to understand it is a long-term process not an ‘event’.
2. There need to have milestones within it that people can progress to and reach.
3. You need to communicate it clearly and share it with everyone in the organisation.
4. The CEO and board have to visibly come on board and be seen to be embracing it and absolutely believing in it.

Found this article interesting? Then we recommend you read The Little Book For… The Vision Maker. How to drive organisational vision and culture change for more ways to stimulate sustainable culture change within an organisation.
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