What Are the Blocks to Culture Change?

Many companies today are asking themselves how they can be more innovative with respect to new products and services or quality improvement. Winning companies have created environments where employees feel encouraged to offer new ideas or even experiment with different approaches to old problems.

Culture can be simply defined as the way organizations go about getting things done. These behaviors are shaped by our knowledge, skills, and attitudes and, with information networks today, obtaining new knowledge is limited only by our curiosity. Curiosity and other innovation qualities are rooted in the values and beliefs that shape the organization’s attitudes; and these attitudes can become toxic limiters to success. For example, can an organization really evolve to a “LEAN culture” if the production engineers don’t believe that assemblers and operators can make meaningful contributions to enhancing complex production processes? Or, can the communication between two departments really improve if they believe each other are jerks? After the obvious toxic attitudes have been removed, organizations can address skill development. Skills develop best when individuals are offered the coaching and repetition to develop the skill.

Culture change entails a big commitment from top management. Although I’m biased, I believe an outsider to the organization can contribute greatly to dispelling the myths and beliefs that impede organizations. Activities which can encourage change are:

  • Clarify and discussion strategy and goals with all your employees. Make certain everyone knows their role in the plan.
  • Be certain that all employees have goals and that they are measurable. Develop supervisors to discuss obstacles and shortfalls in the spirit of improvement.
  • Recognize all initiatives; not just the ones that succeed.

 

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