Your company culture is basically a reflection of the way things get done in your company. Are you happy with the day-to-day activities, the decision making, and the interpersonal team dynamics? What about your team and company results – are you satisfied with them, and with the process by which you achieve results?

If you answered “NO” to any of the above questions, then a company culture change is probably necessary.

Changing a culture is a process that takes place over time, and follows deliberate planning and activated by the leadership team. Once you know you’re not happy with “how things work around here”, you have to first define what you want instead, and then begin a deliberate campaign of action that creates the culture you want.

Define what you want

In some companies, it’s easy to complain about what’s broken. You’ll hear employees complain about dumb decisions or how decisions were communicated. You’ll hear mangers complain about some people’s lack of effort, about people protecting their fiefdoms about, or the lack of teamwork, or accountability, or recognition. You’ll hear sales complain about operations, operations complain about engineering, engineering complain about finance, etc. As long as the conversations are allowed to stay at the complaint level, know that you have a problem in your culture. You have to shift the dialogue to what you’d rather see instead.

In most cases, the obvious answer is to state the opposite of the complaints. For example, if you hear complaints about the lack of accountability, the obvious statement is “we want people to embody high levels of accountability” (or teamwork, collaboration, responsibility, etc.).

Now get as specific as you can. Exactly what do you mean by high levels of accountability? Perhaps the comments are guided by specific situations, like a recent project roll out where nobody stepped up and took ownership because everyone was too busy to do anything different then stay stuck in their day-to-day headaches.

Instead, accountability would mean that after the project kick-off, everyone invests 30 minutes each day to see how they can implement the proposed changes. Everyone reports at a morning review meeting with the successes they had with the new system. People volunteer for leadership roles within the implementations plan. See how these details give clarity about what you want in the new culture?

Deliberate Campaign of Actions

Once you have clearly defined what you’d rather see, it’s deliberate actions that make behavior changes take hold. Here are some examples of actions within a campaign:

  • Arrange communication meetings that define new, desired behaviors
  • Create employee focus groups to discuss the desired behaviors and solicit ideas about how to engage more people
  • Align goals and performance review processes with expected behaviors to communicate that how we get results is as important as the results, themselves
  • Incorporate immediate coaching and feedback whenever there is a violation of the desired behaviors, and not just from managers
  • Share success stories and examples in company newsletters and intranet home pages.

Remember, while its easy for people to complain about what’s not working the real opportunity exists in engaging the compliances to turn the situation around. Get your team involved in shaping how things do get done and you can all enjoy a long-term culture that works for everyone.