Culture Change Simplified–Part 3 of 4: Re-orienting Organizational Direction

In Part 2, we made the unsettling observation that the culture of the organization will–for better or for worse–dictate its destiny. Many years ago I worked in an organization that was “sole source” provider of its particular products. As a result, they projected an attitude that was far from “customer-focused.” Internally, workers (and middle managers in particular) were treated about as badly as the customers were.

Well, in time, competititon developed and their customers had choices. Ultimately, when the organization’s bread-and-butter customer found another supplier, everyone in the organization recognized we were now in an irreversible death spiral. Today, the location of my office is now occupied by a Jack in the Box restaurant.

So, to avoid a similar fate within your organization, something has got to change, and it’s got to change now!

We will look at culture change from two angles in Parts 3 and 4. Today, we will talk about re-orienting your organization.

An organization can operate in one of two organizations: a personality-centered focus or a process-centered focus.

You can determine your organization’s orientation (focus) by looking at how conflicts are resolved:

1. In a personality-centered environment, the conflict will be resolved based on who has the highest position, the loudest voice, the most persuasive argument, or who is the last person standing. In such an environment, it’s about winning and losing, command and control, and never about the process. It’s ironic that when a company finds itself in a crisis, they seek out a “rock star” CEO to infuse a new direction. In effect, the company is doing little more than superimposing another personality on the personality focus that put the company in crisis in the first place.

2. In a process-centered environment, a conflict is resolved based on what is best for the processes that achieve product realization (to borrow the phrase from ISO-9001). Egos are set aside, because egos don’t improve processes. In such an environment, leadership is always asking questions of those closest to the process. A new leader coming into an organization intent on instituting a process-focused environment will similarly ask questions, as opposed to coming in professing all the answers.

If the culture is personality-focused, switching to a process focus is imperative. People in the organization must understand first of all their relationship to the processes, and leadership must listen to the voice of the process, which also means the voice of the process performers.

In our final installment, we talk about the front-line actions necessary to bring the change about.

About Tim James "Mr. Procedure"

A communicator; all-purpose capability in writing, designing and presenting training for all facets of organizational function. While my focus has been manufacturing, my training/development experience includes supervisory and lead person development, audit processes, continuous improvement and Lean, and Quality Management System implementation.
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