Culture Change

Organizational culture is popularly defined as 'the way we do things around here'! And to cause change of any type requires changing the outlook of those employees who are maintaining 'how things are done around here'! For Psychonomics, culture change begins by seeking to change the nature of the organization so that it is more productive or better able to attain its objectives in some way. And for this change to occur so that it is fundamental, and not simply window dressing that is temporary and represents only surface-level change, we work on altering the very beliefs, behavior, and values of the organization's employees. With this in mind, we design a comprehensive approach together with clients in order to achieve deep-rooted and long-lasting change.

Interventions decided on are often complex - as, for example, the end result may be to: restructure interdepartmental communication systems, address quality issues, deal with grievancies, implement anonymous employee reporting systems, alter policies and procedures, organize specific training programs, or implement leadership style transformation amongst managers through coaching. But whatever Psychonomics do we ensure that the intervention is conducted within a highly focussed, regulated and planned strategy. It should be remembered, however, that culture change is often a slow process, and realistic estimates of time scale range from around nine months to three years depending on the requirement.

Particular methods we call upon can be used in a variety of ways, which means that they can be a starting point for not only culture change but more general - and less time consuming - organizational development too. The process we go through to decide on the required intervention is usually as follows:

Step 1. Analysis of existing culture: Extensive surveying of organizational policies and members is undertaken to establish specific objectives for culture change. The reason for doing this is that unless goals are specified, there is no way to measure success. Often, it seems, goals are not explicit or there's conflict amongst individuals about the activities to be performed and how these should be achieved.

Step 2. Experiencing the culture: Senior employees are given the opportunity to examine the existing culture, identify its dysfunctions and participate in identifying the culture that is required. For example, using constraint theory for the analysis of system bottlenecks. But as culture concerns ways of thinking, behaving and believing that members of a social unit have in common, challenging an employee's beliefs, thoughts, values and behavior can result in a threat to their feeling of integrity. Hence, not everyone will want to work or be able to function effectively in this situation, and will attempt to resist change. The cognitive and behavioral alteration needed for organizational survival may be too much for many employees to accept. Psychonomics, therefore, seeks to address any possible resistance from the earliest stages of intervention, and then take appropriate steps to deal with it - for example, by fully involving employees in setting organizational goals.

Step 3. System installation: This is where the actual process occurs. For example, Psychonomics works to develop: clear strategic vision concerning the direction and purpose of the proposed change; commitment of employees throughout the organization; development of symbolic leadership where senior and middle managers need to learn to 'walk the talk' and not just pay lip service to it; and we also implement any supporting organizational changes, such as modifications to corporate structure, management styles, human resourcing, and information systems. We also conduct finer levels of intervention such as sensitivity training, appreciative inquiry, and group discussion.

Step 4. Ongoing evaluation: The degree of change is assessed, while further methods are used to reinforce the desired change or create new change. Overall, here, we take an iterative approach in order to strengthen the degree of culture change.

Culture change strategies often fail because employees return to the existing culture of their organization. Following training programs, for example, the ideal is for organizations to take on board the new behaviors with, say, departmental supervisors demonstrating commitment, and organizational settings adapting. This would be a prerequisite for comprehensive culture change to occur but is not always the case. Therefore, being cognizant of this fact, we seek to intervene at an early stage and fully oversee, so that any problems are dealt with.

Another problem that we often work with clients to overcome is that culture change is unlikely when a disparity exists between reality and a stated set of objectives. Employees become confused, irritated, and skeptical and may lack enthusiasm when a false image of the organization is portrayed, with work performance and attitudes altering accordingly. At the extreme, an organization fails to accept, or see, that there is an organizational problem that needs addressing, and any 'culture interventions' undertaken are done half-heartedly. Until, occasionally, an organization is forced to take a good, hard look at its values, beliefs, and behavior - usually only in response to a major culture shock, such as NASA's Challenger disaster. Drastic culture changes are then made that impact heavily on the organization, sometimes very rapidly. Throughout our intervention, therefore, we seek to address these issues - often known in the organization but not listened to - as well as seek the active participation of senior managers. The end result of our approach is that the organization functions as a cohesive unit and major concerns cannot mushroom out of control.










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