Leading Corporate Change – The Soul

Last in a series on corporate change.

The underpinning of the mind and body is the soul, the culture of an organization.  A corporate soul that informs both the mind and the body is the corporate culture – what is accepted as normal behavior in an organization, a kind of code of ethics. Any change strategy should specifically deal with the major elements and nuances of  the soul or culture of an organization.

Are you cultured?

Culture consists of the norms of the organization. Though many may think their workplace lacks a culture, it is crucial to remember that every organization has a culture. It may be an adventurous and risk embracing culture like exists at Odyssey Marine Exploration or a team oriented culture like Whole Foods or it can be a low initiative, high accountability and bureaucratic culture such as  …. (you fill in the blank). Whatever the particular culture is, it is defined by a series of norms and behaviors, a code of what is accepted and not accepted. A culture is the glue of the organization. It holds things together when other things fall apart at the leadership or process level.

Creating a ‘Line of Sight’

An effective culture comes from a sense of shared ownership, which comes out of the shared sense of an organization’s vision and operations, a “line of sight” between what happens day to day and the general performance of the organization. Such a “line of sight” leads to a sense that people’s contributions are valued by the organization, an ownership culture in which everything is important to the bottom line. There is a great value to creating this ownership culture because the organization becomes comfortable with change and ambiguity – the only constant in business today.  Everyone should be thinking like an entrepreneur, a mindset in which what is good for the organization is good for the individual contributors.

Make your Values Public

There are useful methods and techniques for assessing the soul of the organization, and once this code of values, norms and ethics is established, it should be publicized. Most organizations should have their values posted. This justifies tough decisions, because such decisions – over hiring and firing, for instance – can be persuasively articulated when they can be connected with the organization’s value system. In most organizations, the code of behavior – issues like lateness and timeliness, dress, and approach to customers – is left largely unspoken. This can pose a challenge when you’re in the midst of a large change effort because there is no true north to point.

It’s critical that important aspects of the culture be clear and documented.  Make sure that new people are brought into the organization in accordance with this code. It can even be used as a selling point, attesting to an organization’s commitment to its customers and employees.

Documenting and then leveraging these unspoken codes will provide you the opportunity to use your corporate soul, your corporate culture, as an ally in the battle of corporate change.

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