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Culture Really Does Matter

Why should managers ‘learn’ about cultural change?

06 February 2018

We all know that today’s managers are busy and under a lot of pressure to deliver so why should they make time and invest in the need to learn about ideas and methods central to successful cultural change? This is a paradoxical question as everyone knows that organisational culture is arguably, next to cash flow, the most important aspect of leadership. It’s management and cultivation should not be ignored and yet often it is. Sometimes we let the reasons why we should do something fall below conscious thought and leave them hidden as unconscious assumptions. If we don’t talk about such things or create a space for talking about them then their strategic importance remains unattended to until its too late (The Banks, Carillion, Mid Staffs, Care Services). This blog clarifies our presuppositions regards this question.


Culture is the expressive capacity of an organisation

Culture becoming can be understood as the central process that people involved in developing or leading organizations need and should understand. It is important to stress that culture in all of its amazing complexity enables or constrains expression and has the potential for learning at every level throughout the organisation. It enables groups to adapt and benefit from their environment. Culture is for me best not thought of as a ‘noun’ by managers. It is helpful to think of the normal usage of the term culture in organisations as a nominalisation, which is a verb that we often distort into a noun. Central to our approach at The Cultural Change Company https://culturalchange.co.uk/ is to deconstruct the noun back to its root as a verb, which means to work with and within culture is to work with cultural processes. Culture for me is a social construction. People make it and it is only through the determined, intelligent, cooperative action of people that culture can be changed.

Organizational culture remains the most critical aspect of the managerial experience. It is widely understood that when a change strategy is incompatible with the culture of the organization, the strategy fails. Managers can find themselves trapped within their current market dynamics, unable to escape the clutches and influence of established cultural paradigms as they try to navigate serious strategic change. As a consequence they need to have some kind of developed conceptual and practical framework for both understanding organizational culture and for working with its dynamic processes. Culture controls expression, and how organizational members express themselves impacts the strategic potential of the organization.


What is the right kind of learning strategy?

On our Leading Cultural Change Practitioner programme, we adopt an action learning approach. We use case studies, draw on established methods and theories and link all the stages of action learning to practical matters that the participants deal with day in and day out in their own organisations. This is experiential based learning aiming to build activities of progressive cultural change in our client’s organisations. The case study we use is relevant to all organizations regardless of sector as it provides an example of the problematic nature of cultural change. We also address how to deconstruct the cultural paradigm, redesign and inculcate a new paradigm that provides members with a source of competitive advantage for the future. This new model is an infusion of cultural themes drawn from both the private and the public sector.


Final Thoughts

Our main assertion is that culture can be changed in a managed way. Many popular management books are ‘how to’ sequential and common-sense approaches supported with heroic vignettes of chief executives who transformed ‘weak’ cultures into winning ‘strong’ cultures. Such populism lacks theoretical power and airbrushes over the harsh complexity and subsequent difficulties. As a result practitioners remain largely ignorant about the concept of culture, its dynamics and how one could set about trying to describe it and then change it. The Leading Cultural Change Practitioner Programme sets out to explain what culture is, how it forms, how one can analyse it, the difficulties associated with changing an organizational culture, and a broad review of the literature relevant to organizational cultural change. In our book https://www.amazon.co.uk/Leading-Cultural-Change-Organizational-Transformation/dp/0749473037   we explore cultural change work in depth. 

Course details at:  https://leading-cultural-change-course.eventbrite.co.uk

To view the course brochure click here