Yes, it’s challenging. And no, you can’t do it overnight – especially since the job of nurturing an inspiring culture is never finished. But yes, you can do it, and, as many organizations have shown, you can make a dramatic change to your culture faster than you might think. Here are five ways to jump start a cultural shift in your organization:
1. Focus on the Important Stuff: The Denmark supermarket chain Irma transformed their culture (and saved their business) when the CEO decided to try a revolutionary new approach: putting people first. To achieve that goal the company focused on three areas: Leadership training based on personal development, open communication (including a very personal and heartfelt weekly newsletter that helped build trust and openness), and celebrating positive results. Within less than a year Irma became profitable and today is recognized as the fifth best workplace in Denmark and the best retailer to work for in Europe.
2. Do a Values Blitz: AFA JCDecaux (a Copenhagen-based outdoor advertising company whose CEO I interviewed last year) transformed their culture within six months by relentlessly focusing on one of their four core values one week at a time, cycling through a different value each week until it became engrained into everyone’s behaviors.
3. Create a 3 in 3 Culture Challenge: Challenge every employee and every team to do three things in the next three months to contribute to a more positive, inspiring culture.
4. Have Conversations, Not Meetings: Michael Abrashoff, the commander of the USS Benfold, changed the culture of his ship by having a conversation with every crew member about the kind of ship they wanted to serve aboard. That was it. Nothing fancy schmancy: in-depth conversations which led to a common understanding of the culture resulted in an increase in the crew retention rate from 29% to 100%.
5. Try a VCR Approach: Use signs, posters, badges, buttons, bumper stickers, or mascots to create a Visual reminder of the desired goal; Communicate success stories on a consistent basis (open meetings with a “culture moment” or create a story section on your intranet); Recognize employees and teams who model the desired behavior.
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