So you’ve decided to tinker with your culture. Maybe it’s not working the way it should, maybe you have too much conflict on your hands, maybe it doesn’t fit your new strategy, or maybe you’re just bored and want to take a new culture out for a spin. Whatever the reason, there are some sure fire things you can do to change it.

1. Fire everyone.
This one is guaranteed to transform your organization, and fast. It has a 100% success rate, but it’s not for everybody. There are a few downsides, much like shooting the patient to cure a cold. But hey, it works.

2. Get everyone together, tell them they have to change, put up posters, chant slogans, and wait.
This doesn’t work as well as option one. Especially if it’s one and done, and off to the next flavor of the week. Organizational culture is incredibly resistant to change, even well-intended change.

3. Hire people who fit a completely new culture, then wonder why they quit.
Hiring for cultural fit is a really important way to sustain a culture—who you hire and who you fire is one of the secrets to sustaining the organization you want to build, but cultures are strong beasts that eat the unwary. Often they reject anything new and different and not invented here, including those bright and shiny new hires you hoped would change things.

4. Get everyone together, ask them what’s great about the organization, what’s getting in the way of the organization using those strengths, and what we can do about it. Then get people engaged in doing something about it.
Now this one has a shot of changing the culture without destroying what’s great about the organization (see option one). It also has elements of how the organization can evolve—while enlisting the organization’s commitment for doing so. It lowers the threat of telling people they are broken, and uses an approach based in positive psychology and appreciative inquiry (Google Martin Seligman or David Cooperrider).

5. Repeat Step 4 a bunch more.
Hire people who fit the strengths of the organization. Model those strengths yourself.

Culture change is never ever one and done. You have to sustain it and continue to evolve over time. Perhaps most importantly, leaders and influencers have to behave in a way to shows the changing culture in action—that means rolling your sleeves up and getting involved in doing something about it. Repeat Step 4 often enough, and one day you will wake up to a completely different workplace, that retains the best about what you’ve already got. You might even change for the better along the way, too.




Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

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