There’s no magic button to make organizational change succeed, but there are a few factors that we see over and over when things do work out. And the one that should be shouted from the rooftops is company culture. This isn’t to say that a strong vision or measurable goals aren’t important, of course, but culture is a bit of an unsung hero. Sure, it’s “softer” and less quantifiable — but it’s a necessary part of the foundation for any change-management process.
Getting There and Staying There
A report by Strategy& shows that culture is a vital part of successful organizational change. Take a look at some of the top reasons employees say that they resist change:
44% don’t understand the change they’re being asked to make
Over one-third say they don’t agree with it
If the members of a company don’t understand or agree with a change, that means there’s a deep disconnect between that change and the company’s culture. It could be that the change goes against the established values, or maybe the overarching vision just hasn’t been communicated clearly. Of course, it’s possible that these employees just aren’t on board with the organizational culture — which still signals a need for work, so you can get them to buy in.
And don’t get misled by early success. For the change to actually last, employees need to stay committed even when it’s all “done” and no longer a top priority. On the other hand, values are permanent. If the change doesn’t mesh with them, the change won’t stick around. You can push and pull with temporary pressure or rewards, but that progress has to be reinforced by the culture to truly become a part of your organization.
Lead the Charge
Use leadership to help your employees navigate major changes. A leader who lives a company’s values and truly embraces its culture can demonstrate how the new direction is in line with the organization’s identity. And having a manager who acts as a role model is tied to success: employees who were happier after change had one 94% of the time.
This is especially important if the change involves the culture itself. Show your employees how you, other managers, and the company as a whole are putting new values into practice.
Your culture shapes your company’s identity, and that shapes its future. Without a successful marriage between organizational change and that identity, you risk losing the progress you’ve made — or never getting off the ground in the first place.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.