Think HBR

Leading cultural change

Arguably, the single most challenging task that any leadership team can be charged with is to change or align a company’s culture. Most of us understand the significant benefits that a positive company culture provides to a business and the affect when the culture does not match this ideal. The test is, how do leaders successfully affect cultural change?
This article aims to provide some ‘proven guidance to help leaders with this process and focuses on the three key requirements that leaders must instil in the workplace to have any success at changing their company culture. These three key requirements are:
1. Clarity,
2. Buy-In, and
3. Repetitiveness
The end state of the Cultural change must be clearly communicated to everybody within the organisation. This is most commonly achieved through the development/refinement of the company values. Developing the company values and posting them on the website and painting them on the walls is not enough. The values must be defined and translated into specific behaviours that individuals are expected to display as a member of the organisation. This means that job descriptions, company policies and procedures need to accurately reflect these values.
This will enable managers to set expectations and for individuals to have the appropriate clarity and framework to behave properly.
Buy In
Every leader within the organisation must have complete buy in to the cultural change. Let’s be clear here - ‘Buy in’ means much more than ‘accept’. Leaders must truly believe in the values and the culture they are trying to build whilst also being motivated to push through the inevitable naysayers. One of the most effective techniques to achieve buy in from the leadership group is to include them all in the development of the values and the design of their behavioural definitions.
Everybody knows that you can’t change culture overnight, nor can you change it with a few well scripted value statements and a fancy new website. True cultural change, bought about by focused behaviour will only be achieved by starting small.
Implementing changes on a small scale that are frequently and deliberately repeated, is the most effective, tried and tested method in achieving this desired outcome. Continuous execution of small (hence manageable) actions over time creates habits which leads to long term change. Starting with small changes increases the probability of achieving tangible outcomes quickly.
This in turn, demonstrates to the entire organisation that the values, and the behaviours which they espouse, are supported by the leadership.
With these three key requirements in place, cultural change is an achievable and realistic outcome. The benefits stemming from building a reliable culture where employees have consistent and clear expectations in terms of behaviour and performance are immense and essential for long term business success.
For further information contact Skildare on (02) 4940 8743, email or visit
Adam loong Adam Loong

Adam's skills in leadership and strategic decision making, perfected over more than 17 years as a Fighter Pilot has enabled him to successfully apply these proven principles in the Human Resources field.
As a passionate leader of high performance teams, Adam expertly applies simple, effective and proven measures that promote innovation, employee engagement and performance across teams from the executive level to the coal face.