314 — How Fast Can Culture Change?

The speed of culture change depends on size, commitment, and resources.

  • The size of the organization— with fewer people to involve, small companies change faster than big companies.
  • The commitment of the top leaders to walk the talk. If leaders show by their actions that they are committed to the change, employees and managers will quickly join them. If leaders delegate the task, little will change.
  • The resources available. Developing a work culture takes a little extra time. If the operational needs are too demanding, if there simply is no time to meet and discuss the culture, it may be best to wait.

Cultures Change When Leaders Show That They Want Them to Change

Holding monthly “Culture Leadership Meetings” with the management team jump-starts the culture development process (see The Five Steps to An Unbeatable Culture). There managers discuss their relationships, the values they want to encourage in the organization and the actions they will take to demonstrate these values. Through this process of discussion and action, managers learn about themselves, the culture, and how they can lead it. When they are ready, leaders can then involve lower levels in a similar process. This step-by-step process is the fast and simple way to build a powerful and productive workplace.

Results Begin Immediately

With active leadership, positive results will begin immediately. Even in the biggest organization, people at every level will soon be aware that the culture is changing for the better. With visibly committed top leadership you can use the following general time guideline for completing the culture change, top to bottom and across all divisions. (Many factors can affect these numbers, e.g. if you are a local plant, eager to change, but the corporation’s leadership does not understand and accept your changes, that will slow down and limit the extent of your effort.)

Number of Employees      10  100  1,000  10,000  100,000
Year to complete change   1     2      3         4         5

It is only natural and human to want an engaging workplace with trusting relationships and good communications, where you feel valued and productive. If leaders move in that direction people will eagerly follow. Once leaders learn how to go with the current of human desire, see Evolution and Company Culture, they usually look back and wonder why they ran the company any other way.

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