Develop a Culture Change Plan
To proactively develop a culture of acceleration, consider putting a specific culture change strategy into writing.
The first step in developing this strategy is to define specific attributes of the desired culture (e.g. ‘We want to develop a culture that encourages and enables speed with discipline.’ OR ‘Our team will develop a culture of rapid decision-making by sharing the responsibility to create and maintain our work products.’).
Once the basic message has been defined, leaders can use the Influence Channels shown in the diagram below to provide a consistent signal to the rest of the organization about the desired norms.
Influence Channels Framework
Details of the influence channels and how to use them are provided in the annotated Influence Channels presentation, which can be used in a facilitated planning session to develop the strategy. The presentation presents a set of key questions to guide the development of a culture change strategy.
For example, the Leadership channel includes answering questions such as:
- Who are the leaders (formal and informal) in the organization?
- What messages are these leaders currently sending, and are these messages consistent with the desired culture?
- What new messages should the leaders begin sending, in order to introduce the desired culture?
- What measures are the leaders currently using to assess the organization’s performance, and how do these align with the desired culture?
- What measures should the leaders focus on, in order to reinforce the desired culture?
- What incentives are currently in place, and do they align with the desired culture?
- What new incentives and rewards can be established to reinforce the desired culture?
- Have leaders identified groups within the organization that already exhibit the desired culture?
- What steps are leaders taking to hold up these groups as models or exemplars for others to emulate?
Each of the remaining channels has a similar set of questions. As the group works through the activity, the answers to these questions suggest specific actions that are needed to establish and spread the desired culture.
Culture Change Principles
- An organization’s culture refers to the behaviors and beliefs of its members. Culture describes how an organization’s members see the world, make decisions, and solve problems.
- Culture is seldom monolithic. Organizations tend to develop co-cultures and sub-cultures, alongside the dominant culture.
- Culture is dynamic, not static.
- Some cultures are more productive and healthier than others. It is sometimes desirable to change an organization’s dominant culture.
- Culture change takes time. Rapid change is possible, but the only way to know if the change will last is to see if it lasts.
- The fastest way to change a culture is to build out from existing pockets where the desired culture already exists.
- Influences on a person’s beliefs and behaviors come through many channels, including
- Organizational leaders (messages, metrics, incentives)
- Peers (inside and outside the organization)
- Training and education (formal and informal)
- Professional literature (books, articles, papers, etc)
- Sending a consistent message through all four channels helps establish and maintain the desired culture.
- Conflicting and contradictory signals through these channels undermines efforts to build a cohesive culture. Silence is a form of contradiction.
- Culture change is something leaders do with, not to the other members of the organization.
- Anyone in an organization can take proactive steps to amplify and synchronize a message through the four influence channels.
Actions You Can Take
- Use the Culture Change Canvas from MITRE’s Innovation Toolkit to guide your strategy development. Include team members in the strategy session.
- Review the annotated Influence Channels presentation with your team.
- The Culture Change Framework whitepaper provides a more comprehensive set of practical actions you can take.
- Contact an Accelerator SME for support in designing and executing a facilitated discussion to create a Strategic Culture Change Strategy/Plan
Additional Information and References
- Cultural Change That Sticks. Katzenbach, Steffen, Kronley, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2012
- How Do You Change An Organizational Culture? Steve Denning. Forbes, Jul 23, 2011.
- Changing Cultures Without Burning Bridges. Dan Ward, Forbes, Apr 2014
- 4 Things Successful Leaders Say to Create a Culture of Innovation, Tamara Kleinberg, Feb 2018
- The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas. G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa, Penguin Books, 2007