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When corporate culture becomes an obstacle

Is your business going through substantial growth and struggling to break through to that next level? As you streamline processes to prepare your business, are you aligning the attitudes of your staff to match your growth strategy?

Cultural tension or a lack of culture awareness can cause business momentum to stall if there is a subsequent disconnect between the growth and culture strategies within the organisation.

Sound familiar?

In my experience, this situation is common across organisations of all sizes. To help illustrate this disconnect, I like to use the model of a “Family Business” going through a generational change. Implementation of new technologies helps this “Family Business” reach a greater target audience and reach a new phase…growth!

Goals are set and processes streamlined, but morale drops as the strategy shifts. There’s tension from staff as the attitudes and mindsets have not shifted to match this new growth. They long for the ‘old’ way of doing things. However, the ‘old’ way will never allow them to achieve their growth aspirations.

That’s not to say all the ‘old’ ways are wrong or need to be changed; it simply means the business and its people need to adapt to survive or thrive.

A culture that harbours negative beliefs and attitudes can lead to a range of problems, including:

  • High staff turnover
  • Loss of productivity
  • Poor efficiency, performance and output
  • Poor teamwork
  • Low profits

Each of these issues is easy to identify, but how effectively are you managing the limiting beliefs that lead to these behaviours?

If it’s an ongoing problem, this is the point you should consider whether or not to engage an external consultant to manage your change process. There may be serious profitability repercussions if culture issues are left unchecked or mismanaged, so it is important to establish where an external consultant can help.

When evaluating the benefits to your business, consider the following “Four Es”:

  • External
  • Expertise
  • Efficiency
  • Energy

Engaging external consultants will give you an objective diagnosis of your business and help identify the areas of friction and remove the “family” element from making strategic decisions for your business. Remember, it’s a business and you’re trying to generate revenue.

Culture consultants are just that – they provide expertise on workplace culture issues because this is their business. They don’t sell bandaids – they provide practical advice on how to implement a change strategy. What you are buying is the fact they have done this before: they have seen most of the mistakes and know what works and what the pitfalls can be.

Working on the business while working in the business is a problem common to smaller organisations. Having an outside expert implement change strategies will increase business efficiency by ensuring your focus remains on day-to-day operations.

This leads to energy. Often culture change processes start with a big fanfare but slow up due to other organisational constraints. If you want sustainable change you need to maintain the momentum (energy) of your growth. Consultants have that focus because they are accountable to you as the client. They also need to have the skills to hold others to account in order to deliver the agreements set when everyone was fired up during the original design session.

Having the ability to reflect on my past experiences managing organisational change, I’ve found the following tips invaluable at helping break through limitations:

  • Have a clear vision, broken down into distinctive horizon periods that includes culture change as part of the execution plan
  • Be clear on the outcomes you want and track progress regularly
  • Pick 3-4 target cultural drivers and set measurable goals to achieve them over a three-year period
  • Build a pragmatic culture development plan that pulls the right levers for change at the right time
  • Consider the “Four Es”

Does your business map culture change according to business growth?

What do you think?

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Jeremy Nichols

Jeremy Nichols

Jeremy Nichols is the head of Chandler Macleod Consulting. Jeremy has over 18 years’ consulting experience in aligning people initiatives to business strategies. He has extensive connections to senior executives in many industries and provides specialist advice in the areas of strategy, culture, leadership and team development and assessment with clients. As Head of Consulting he oversees a team of expert consultants in providing Assessment and Development services. Prior to joining Chandler Macleod he was a partner in Mettle Group which was acquired in 2007. He was also Managing Partner Australia for The Empower Group and General Manager of Clark Hummerston.

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