Every leader who has ever tried to change the culture of an organization knows how difficult and frustrating that can be. It’s a real challenge to get followers to share your vision and then communicate the same vision to their followers and have it stick. The larger the organization and more layers of management there is, the harder it will be to achieve meaningful cultural change across the organization. Good news, you can use the Start Small strategy to help in the process!
In my experience, the best strategy is to focus on one or two aspects of the business that are going to make meaningful impact and just focus on them until you’ve achieved your goal for those aspects. Constantly bring those things up in every conversation you have with followers to let them know this is important and the focus won’t move until we’re happy with the results. Before attempting a change, actively seek advice from all layers of the organization and any stakeholders that will be impacted. This will help give you valuable insight into the current culture and perspectives of followers that you’ll need to convince to accept change. It will also help get buy in if followers feel their input was valued and instrumental in the final decision.
Once you’ve decided on a course of action and one or two things to focus on, clearly communicate the importance and impact to the business to your followers to help them understand the “why”. Chances are, they’ve been through change before that didn’t fit their world view and their leaders didn’t do a great job communicating the change so this is important to get right. The biggest challenge will be knowing how hard to push and when to back off a little to give room for the change to take effect. If you are confident the change needs made for the long-term success of the organization and you did the work to be confident this is the case, don’t waiver in the face of dissent.
You’ll have followers that fight change regardless, but as a leader, you have to be strong and consistent in your message that the change is important. It will be much easier to change one or two things and get followers used to the process before attempting drastic changes that would shock the uninitiated and cause disruption and noise in the business. What changes do you know need focus in your organization?