Dissecting Culture To Drive Change

Martin Dugage who writes Mopsos has written a wonderful entry titled No Pain,NoChange. He writes about the need for crisis situations for change to happen and how they can dissolve barriers between departments. (Which typically act as knowledge silos otherwise). He says:
“This reminds me of what my most admired OB professor Manfred Kets de Vries used to say at Insead

The only drive for change in the business world is pain

Developing a collaborative working environment coming from a rigid bureaucratic hierarchy is probably the biggest change a company can undertake. So unless there is a very good reason to go down that path, it won’t, no matter how hard you try.

That’s something we, collaborative leaders, should meditate more often.”

On similar lines, in Working Knowledge-How Organizations Manage What They Know , the authors recommend instilling a sense of crisis before it exists arguing that “success can lead to an unwillingness to adapt”. This probably points to the fact that crisis situations affect culture. Groups that otherwise would have hoarded knowledge start sharing because their very existence is challenged. Creating artificial crisis situations may be a good idea to generate new knowledge. However, creating sustainable change remains a challenge.

Before sinking a million dollars into deploying a “workflow enabled collaborative KM system” it makes sense to bring in a business anthropologist to identify all cultural enablers and disablers in the organization. This is crucial because while a Social Network Analysis may bring to surface the disconnect between two groups, for any intervention to have a sustainable impact we need to dig deeper and attack the underlying problems. To do this we need a trained anthropologist. Remember the devil is in the details (your complex cultural DNA). The results of doing this cultural audit could go a long way in improving overall organizational effectiveness. For instance, the anthropologist may discover that there is a “blame” culture or there is “fear” or that too many executives wear ambition on their sleeves and so on. These pieces of the cultural DNA need to be repaired. Change & adoption are always going to remain a challenge as long as we keep pretending that the next wave of tools and services will solve all our woes. IMHO, knowledge sharing like many other good things in life needs to be an emergent behavior – driven by positive strands in your cultural DNA.

What do you think are the right ways to create sustainable change?

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One thought on “Dissecting Culture To Drive Change

  1. Knowing the culture of the organization is very important to implement organizational change. In case of MNC’s the cultural issues are even more complex as orgnizations in different countries have different cultures. Foe example HP India will have a differnet culture than HP-France.So for effective change management strategy and implementation, the top managementmust develop customised plans for each country – and let local leaders drive the the change process.

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