Fruit-CakeYour family’s culture drives holiday traditions, i.e. you can’t change Aunt Betty’s fruitcake contribution based upon the secret family recipe, but you can ameliorate its indigestible effects by accompanying the fruitcake with a more palatable cake.  Hopefully, within a few years the cake will replace the fruitcake as the traditional family holiday cake.  Like how to leave the impractical fruitcake out of family culture, calculating how to change your business culture to accept a new, better tradition must be strategized.

Implementing transformational organization change must use tradition along with strategy.  In the white paper, Culture’s Role in Enabling Organizational Change: Survey Ties Transformation Success to Deft Handling of Cultural Issues, Booz & Company,  a global management consulting firm discusses how to build upon the traditional culture of a company to create a new culture that better responds to change. Similar to the fruitcake scenario above, acceptance and effectiveness of a company’s change relies upon renovating, not replacing, a company’s traditional culture to create practices in line with contemporary business goals.

According to the paper, 84% of respondents believe that their organization’s culture is critical to business success.  Other comments about their companies’ culture are:  60% say culture is more important than strategy or operating model; 45% feel that culture is not being effectively managed; 47% do not feel culture is an important part of the leadership teams’ agenda, and 52% think their organization’s culture is in need of a major overhaul.

When innovating, companies overlook the major implications that company culture has upon the longevity of strategic change and employees’ trust in a sustainable change actually occurring.    According to Booz & Company, strategic change planning must consider culture. To do this, executives need firm knowledge about their company culture strengths and weaknesses in order to leverage strengths to increase the momentum needed for overcoming obstacles.  Booz & Company states that a company culture diagnostic should identify points of pride about the company and employees’ commitment to the company.  As well, this test should collect company narratives and determine how these support change or initiate conflict.  For instance, a company narrative about the high amount of profits donated to environmental conservation groups may point to a source of pride for employees.  Thus, engaging in change which interrupts these narratives, for example, donations being channeled to community development organizations modifies the narrative, resulting in disruption to company pride.

Understanding pride in organization, organizational stories, emotional commitment to organization become the starting point for garnering support for change.  In fact, 56% of companies where changes had worked said that the existing culture was used as a source of energy and influence.

The typical stumbling blocks to company transformation like change fatigue and exclusion of lower-level employees in developing a plan for change are still top ranking.  Reported in the same white paper is 65% of respondents say that they have experienced change fatigue, 48% said that their company was not skilled in carrying out change, and a significant number believe that there is not enough input and buy-in by lower-level employees.

Major obstacles listed above have been frequently cited as low success rates for transformational change. The importance of company culture has thus far eluded most blueprints for strategic transformational change.  When attempting to affect change in our own family’s culture and holiday sweets options we definitely consider family pride in and emotional commitments to our “company” transformation initiatives.  Not paying attention to Aunt Betty’s ardent relationship with fruitcake may drag down family relations for a while; not paying attention to company culture may drag down productivity and profits for a very long time.