INPD associate tutor Dr Victoria Smith-Collins reflects on culture change.

As I sit here in our family caravan on my parents’ driveway for a voluntary 2-week quarantine period after moving back to the UK from overseas…

 

I reflect on all of the unexpected things that have happened over the last few months

Who would have expected a global pandemic would take over just after we committed to moving back home after 14 years away?  How will the family cope with being separated for a while?  How will the rest of the family (including our 4 family pets) make it back with flights and rules changing daily?  How will we stay safe and manage to ensure that others stay safe during this period?  How will our two companies survive and thrive?  How do we need to change the way we think and the way we operate?  What are the positives that we can take from this into the future?

With all these issues stacked up in my head, I realise that it’s no wonder I’ve been struggling to get a good night’s sleep. I’m sure that this is something that many of you can relate to.  You see, when change happens, we go through a number of stages that range from shock and denial, through frustration and depression (where our morale and confidence are at their lowest) through to experimentation with the new situation, increased hope and positive decision making, and finally the integration of changes into our lives and organisations.  These stages of change were identified by Kubler-Ross and in reality, we go through them at different rates sometimes skipping elements altogether.

 

So how is this relevant in an organisational context, and how can organisations embrace a culture that accepts and celebrates change?

Culture is rooted at a very deep values level within organisations and is usually formed based on the values of significant people such as the founders, owners and executive/senior managers.  Cultural values and behaviours are so strong that within a few weeks of joining an organisation, new employees may find themselves using unique jargon and performing idiosyncrasies that looked very strange to them on day one and continue to look strange to the outside world!   It’s amazing how quickly we adapt to change and start to make comments like ‘we’ve always done things this way!’

For organisations that embrace a culture of flexible working, innovation, open communication, transparency and agile working practices, change is a central and positive part of their operation and decision making.  Through ongoing learning and reflective practice, they are able to constantly review their current position, what can be done better, and they are able to make ongoing adaptations and improvements to their working practice.  This is supported by a leadership mindset of open, authentic, and transparent communication where employees are encouraged to learn from failure and where a continuous learning and coaching mindset is lived out.

In reality, many of us may feel that we, and our organisations, have been kicked into the current COVID-19 situation where change is the only option. While we are grappling around somewhere within the change curve, other’s and their organisations appear to ‘resiliently’ have it all together – according to social media anyway!

 

Whatever it is, it is a great opportunity to stop, take-stock and reflect on where we are at and what we can do to make positive change going forwards.

Some questions we may address include:

  • Where are we at now?
  • What have we learned?
  • How have we/will we adapt?
  • What will we continue to do?
  • What will we do differently?
  • What opportunities can we explore and exploit?
  • How can we flex and build agility?
  • How will we embed that within our culture?
  • How can we develop ourselves further?
  • How can we lead or organisations more effectively?
  • How can we reach out and support the community?

In the meantime, don’t be too hard on yourself. Let’s focus on some of the positives like appreciating having extra family time, doing nothing and not feeling bad about it, avoiding the daily commute if you’re working from home, breathing in cleaner air, getting to know your neighbours and listening to the birds sing. Stay safe everybody!

Business culture is something we discuss on our leadership programmes, as ultimately culture change starts with business leaders. If you would like to know more about our leadership programmes, visit our leadership courses page.

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