Defining A Path For Cultural Transformation

Defining A Path For Cultural Transformation

By default, things may fall into place, but by design, there are higher chances that things will fall into the right place.


Culture is designed and defined differently by each organisation, depending on various factors. It’s essential to keep not only the organisation but also the people prepared for change. An organisation may not win the game over the unexpected but will be adequately positioned to manage and sail through if its culture is on the right track.


In my opinion, any individual or organisation that is planning a cultural transformation has to be thoughtful of the L.E.A.D. factors: Learning from the past, Enabling the organisation and people, Adapting as and when needed, and Demonstrating authenticity. Culture, per se, is the weakest yet strongest pillar of any organisation Defining a path for cultural transformation is the most daunting task for any business enabler. Transformation must be considered a continuous process that will change, adapt, and evolve over time based on needs. Things take time, and transformation will probably take longer than expected. I am using the acronym CULTURE to highlight the factors that organisations should consider while drafting their strategies:


Conscious (WHY): A change, transformation, or inception is only well-delivered and accepted if a purpose is attached. It’s imperative to have a reason for doing something because that’s the only way to get support and acceptance from all stakeholders. People believe in and become part of the change when they know why it is needed.


Unbiased (HOW): The most challenging part is to step out of one’s comfort zone. Without realising it, we unintentionally push forward our own preferences when drafting a new phase for the organisation. We wish to include what we feel is suitable and needed, but not always what is actually required strategically. The strategy will fetch better results when the foundation and start are based on the needs of the people and organisation and not on a single group’s perception, assumption, and decisions (e.g., the management or leadership team).


Linked (WHOM): A Deloitte survey showed that only 12% of executives recognise that their companies are encouraging the “right culture,” and merely 19% of executives believe that their organisation has the “right culture.” Connecting the dots is essential because nothing will ever work in a silo, even if we end up creating a masterpiece. The people, process, and purpose must be neatly linked when organisations make a cultural switch. Without proper synchronisation, organisations can’t expect uniformity. Also, when there are loose ends, they worsen the scenario by disturbing everything. People have to be the core as they will drive and be driven by the change.


Timely (WHEN): They say that there is a right time for everything; the same goes for organisations to make things happen. Strategists have to realise that timing is crucial to create a positive impact and a culture that can become better as time passes. If your people are not there yet and you have already reached your destination, or if your people are way ahead and you haven’t even started, it will turn out to be a disaster. The “in-time” approach is the right approach. Know your people, company, capabilities, limitations, possibilities, and embrace digitalisation and automation to be on track when needed. The need of the times is time—not late or early but in time. The organisation has to prepare proactively, but implementation has to be timely.


Unique (WHICH): Which is the perfect cultural transformation strategy for any organisation? Can we blindly adopt what others are doing and grow exponentially? The answer for sure is no! No one solution can fit everywhere within an organisation, and here we are talking about different organisations. Like culture, the change process also has to be unique and sensitive towards the people’s acceptance, impact, and emotions. It should always depict “us/ we,” not “they/I.” Be part of the game, not as the rule maker but as a player. Culture is personal; showcase that. It’s critical to stay unique when defining the process, as it will directly impact the people involved. It will determine their life in the organisation.


Realigned (WHERE): Does transformation mean redoing the entire thing or identifying pockets that seek attention and change? Many organisations assume that transformation means changing everything into a new world. Leaders have to be careful at this junction, as there must be practices that keep people and organisation together  and focused; a complete makeover may become a colossal failure if we clean the board entirely and start fresh. Identification of pain areas remains the main task of this change. Introspect!


Engaging (WHAT): What any organisation does matters most and is received well if it can pull people towards the initiative launched. As per Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, deeply engaged organisations obtain 59% less employee turnover. People want to know what their role is, how they can contribute, how it will impact them, what has to be done, when, and why. Only the organisation answering all these questions can win employees’ confidence, participation, acceptance, and contribution. Feedback plays a pivotal role here. Organisations must remember to make their transformation strategies participative. Sometimes, they miss building a feedback path to hear from people and relook at the approach to timely remodel if needed.


Here are a few more points to ponder about leading a cultural transformation effort:


• Perfection is a myth. No culture will last forever and fit the bill perfectly. People are changing, and so is the environment around us. Perspectives are shifting at a pace that we have never imagined; hence, transforming culture will be a continuous journey in which every organisation will continue circling.


• Cultural transformation shouldn’t be the last possibility to save your culture when it’s falling apart or has failed. Instead, organisations should focus on the need to adapt and empower people to achieve their strategic goals.


• Copy-pasting is prevalent today concerning people and business models; the only aspect any organisation can retain as unique is the culture. Other organisations can’t replicate core principles and values because it’s impossible to decode one’s secret magic potion. It’s personal!


• More than the culture, the readiness to change when seeking change is the miraculous quality that keeps winning organisations ahead of others.


• Any transformational journey will primarily depend on the culture of the organisation – when the culture changes, everything changes! Think and invest well. As it’s rightly quoted by many leaders, “if we change nothing, nothing will change.”


Dr Ankita Singh is the Senior Vice President & Global Head of HR at CIGNEX Datamatics. She has over 19 years of experience in managing various aspects of HR spanning across domains of ITES. She holds a PhD in Management and was named one of Forbes India’s Top 100 Great People Managers.


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