Changing culture through “small moves”

Culture change programs are often complex efforts involving surveys, reports, leadership retreats, training programs and communication campaigns. But what if there was another way? What if culture change didn’t require a program but could be effected through our daily, business-as-usual activities?

Organizational culture occurs in the everyday interaction between team members, in the small decisions we make, in the things people see, do, say and think as they go about their work. Why not tackle culture change by working at this level? Instead of “going big” in our change efforts, let’s “go small” and start now.

At Humanus Solutions we work with clients to identify a critical few, high-leverage “moves” – actions they can take each day to promote the desired mindset, behavior and performance. We work with them to make small moves that have a big effect on organizational culture.

For example, want to create a breakthrough in worker safety? You could schedule hazard recognition training for all employees, design a “see-something-say-something” campaign and launch an incentive program focused on safety results. But that’s going to take a while. (And let’s be honest: did those ideas solve the problem last time you tried them?) What if you got each manager in the organization to make time every day to ask someone “what could go wrong on this task you’re doing?”

Worried about loss of seasoned leaders and the inexperience of young supervisors in your company? You could launch a multi-tiered leadership development curriculum and a process to identify and mentor “high-potential” employees. Those are good ideas. But in the mean time, what if you had a one-on-one meeting with each front-line supervisor in your organization and asked, “how are you doing and how can I help you?”

Want to reduce silos and increase collaboration within your organization? You might try re-organizing your team or re-design your offices to co-locate members of project teams. But while you’re making those plans, why not get everyone on your team to meet someone new each day – introducing themselves to others and learning something about their life away from work?

These “small moves” may not seem like much – but they have a great effect! They demonstrate what matters to you and set an example for others to follow. Best of all, they are simple to start and promote – anyone, at any level of the organization, can lead change through “small moves”.

Jerry Sternin once said, “It’s easier to act your way into new thinking, than think your way into new acting.” Next time you’re tempted to “go big” and launch a complex culture change effort, consider “going small” instead and adopting some daily “moves” to promote the change you want to see.

Interested in learning more? Ready to make big change with small moves? We’re ready to help.

About the author: Andy Erickson is a founder and principal consultant at Humanus Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in people-centric leadership. He can be reached at aerickson@humanus-solutions.com

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