WELCOME to this regular slot that focuses on professional skills for chemical engineers. Last month we looked at the attributes of a creative workplace culture, and decided that we need more divergent thinking to go along with our well-established convergent thinking. This month we continue the theme with a look at how we might encourage culture shift in our organisations.
Make no bones about it, bringing about a culture change is difficult. It doesn’t matter how much authority you have in the organisation. It has been likened to repairing the engine of a moving vehicle. How can it be so hard? According to Torben Rick – someone who has thought a lot about this – the culture of an organisation:
First, culture change cannot be prescriptive or predictive. We cannot tweak the culture knob to dial in the adjustment we require. Organisational culture is an output determined from the interplay between a complex set of variables. Secondly, focusing on culture is really missing the issue. Building on Rick’s second point, the real issue is the values held by the individuals, and how those values align with the vision of the organisation.
Values are beliefs or ideals held by individuals, or shared by individuals. A strong culture prevails when the shared values align with the organisational vision. If the vision of the organisation shifts, for example in an attempt to become more innovative, then the values of the individuals have to be re-aligned towards the new vision. This is a non-trivial undertaking. Here are some ideas that I’ve gleaned from some specialists in the area. I present these in the hope that you find something of interest. First, let’s look at what Steve Denning says about aligning values and vision:
Secondly, these are the thoughts of Tim Kuppler:
So where have we got to? Culture change is possible, but that’s not the real problem. The real problem is in clarifying the organisational vision, and articulating it clearly so that individuals and groups can re-align themselves to it. That leaves us with a vital question; do you know the vision of your organisation, and, if so, are you aligned to it?