most impacted by these various processes that will uncover the trouble
spots before they come to a boil. It
can be a shock for corporate executives
who have, over many years, built their
professional reputations on the capacity to control their personal fiefdoms.
Bureaucracies built around procurement, budgets and quality assurance will
frequently be challenged as companies
move to empower cross-functional
This is where the will of the execu-
tive team is likely to be tested:
driving change through the ranks of
entrenched senior and middle
•;Second,;can;they;create;an;environ-ment where employee communication is not just a vehicle to complain
and expect managers to fix problems,
but also a route for employees to
accept responsibility for learning and
See “Balancing Employee and Management Engagement,” p. 42, for ideas on
how to assess both sides of the company team.
Persevere Your Way to Change
You cannot change your culture to create the changes you need in your processes
and production. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. Only by making ongoing changes
to the processes and procedures, and by making these changes permanent, will you
eventually create a change in the culture of the company.
Create wins. Celebrate them. Continuously engage stakeholders to reevaluate the
progress—or the lack of progress—that is being made. Expect failure. Adapt to the
situation and try again. Difficult decisions will have to be made. It is likely that some
people will not accept the changes and will have to be let go. Leadership must come
from senior executives. Culture change is not an initiative that can be delegated.
Always bear in mind that there is no part of this process that will be easy. Changing
the culture of any organization is messy, complex and a long-term commitment in
the best of circumstances. And don’t declare victory too soon—hidden pockets of
resistance lurk everywhere. They will emerge when you decide your job is done.
Again, John Kotter captures the idea best when he likens difficult change initiatives to tending a fire. You can’t just throw a match and walk away. You have to
watch over it and adapt to changing conditions to ensure that it will grow into a
source of light and energy. n
Geoff Schaadt, M.Sc., M.B.A., is a consultant and practice leader, business sustainability, with Delta Partners Inc.,
a management consulting firm headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario. For more information on resources you can use
to change the culture at your company or facility, contact Geoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
existence. Focusing on survival will not call forth the best in us.
Believing in a brighter future does, and we get our clues on what the
future holds from our leaders. We declared that we would be “The
Showcase of Excellence” at a time when most people would be happy
just to know that we would survive. That vision became the standard
by which we evaluated ourselves and the brighter future that we
Principle 3: Nurture the whole person and a more productive
employee will emerge. The second part of our vision was that we were
going to be “The Cradle of Prosperity” for the employees and their
families. We held coaching sessions and offered programs that were
aimed at helping employees. This helped many employees improve
them—not just as an employee but as a person.
Principle 4: Leaders must not have an entitlement mentality
when it comes to their employees’ commitment. We are well within
our rights to expect compliance. We pay for it and must receive a
certain level of performance in return. However, the ultimate level of
commitment that it takes to create breakthrough results is priceless.
It can only be earned by creating the right conditions in which
employees offer up their commitment for free.
Principle 5: Leaders must openly demonstrate their willingness
to receive feedback on their effectiveness as a leader and act on it.
It would be naïve to never ask our customers what they think of our
products and services and expect to remain competitive. Additionally,
as “servant leaders,” we must have formal and informal avenues to
gauge our performance. We conducted a survey where all technicians
rated the leadership team members and provided examples of
positive and negative behavior.
Principle 6: Leadership must actively extend trust and respect. This
can be done through symbolic gestures that send a clear signal to the
entire organization that the leader considers them trustworthy. One
such example in our case is that we do not have timecards; rather,
we rely on everyone entering
their time in the payroll system
correctly. Further, genuine personal
gestures of trust and respect have
a lasting effect.