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Get Over It: Overcoming Hurdles to Implement Culture Change

By March 4, 2011January 4th, 2016No Comments

athlete in hurdling

Implementing  comprehensive change is hard, even when you know you need it.  It’s really hard when it changes they way your company brings in revenue. As I’m finding with many small businesses, however, sometimes the implementation isn’t as difficult as just getting started. Sometimes just having an idea heard is as hard as doing the work. Even worse is when no one admits there’s a problem! In order for The Whale Hunters Process to work, both leadership and employees need to buy in to the program. In order for everyone to be on the same page, it can take some convincing.

We’ve been advising a lot of companies lately about jump-starting their strategic growth coming out of this recession. Many business leaders agree that they need a more strategic plan for sales, but they stop short of action. What we’re finding is they have personal or internal hurdles that keep them from action, decision, or even letting their ideas be heard!  In a recent podcast, Anne Morriss, from the Concire Leadership Institute, explained that sometimes acting like a great leader actually gets in the way of being a great leader. The need to look smart, the need to be decisive, gets in the way of rigorous decision-making. Has this happened to you? Or as the podcast asks, “What’s holding you back?”

Maybe it’s not the leadership that needs to overcome hurdles to implement change, maybe it’s more broad. Often we’ve found that culture is a critical factor in an organization’s ability to implement strategy or even be open to progressive ideas. In a fantastic article about building world-class culture, Pierre Beaudoin, CEO of Bombardier shares his experiences on getting buy-in and involving the entire company in cultural transformation. It’s very relevant to small business owners today, because as the economy slowed many of the problems within organizations came to the surface,  and now they need to be fixed.

The same was true for Bombardier. Everyone in the company knew they had a problem but couldn’t identify it. Bombardier was No. 1 in engineering and manufacturing, but as Beaudoin pointed out, “the customer doesn’t really care about the hardware; he cares about his flight.” They also struggled with silos and a management team that avoided talking about real issue.  They wanted to keep being No. 1 in manufacturing instead of changing to best serve their ultimate customers. Beaudoin says, “A culture change takes a little bit more time up front, but, once it starts moving, then it moves even faster because more people are engaged.”

Fortunately, Beaudoin was able to identify the problems within his company and work with the employees to gain buy-in and set goals moving forward. If you’re trying to implement change, sometimes your team may not even see that a problem exists. For this I turned to John Kotter who explains his See, Feel, and Change process for getting others within an organization to recognize an issue. Basically, if you want to get heard don’t just focus on logic and facts, but on how real people suffer from or are otherwise impacted by a problem. You can read more on his process here.

Take a look around. Is your internal culture standing in the way of a higher level of success? Do you need to get out of the way of each other? Or as a key decision maker, are you playing a part instead of doing what’s right? How are you and your company living in a place of “business as usual?” Cultural transformation takes time, but first fresh ideas need to be  evaluated and everyone needs to engage. As Beaudoin states in the interview, “We didn’t get it done rapidly; you don’t change a culture rapidly.”