Transforming Company Culture: Beyond Workshops and Emails

In the quest for culture transformation within companies, common pitfalls often derail well-intentioned efforts. Here’s what companies are often getting wrong:

  1. The Non-Linear Nature of Change: Culture change is not a linear process. Countless workshops and emails fall short because they attempt to mandate behaviors rather than nurture the environment that fosters desired behaviors. Culture evolves through a dynamic, organic process, not through demands.
  2. Leadership’s Personal Transformation: There’s no culture transformation without the personal transformation of its leaders. Workshops on psychological safety or growth mindset mean little if leaders themselves aren’t doing the inner work—understanding their motivations, confronting their fears, and authentically leading by example. Without this introspection and growth, culture change remains a distant dream.
  3. The Emotional Foundation of Culture: Culture isn’t just about behaviors; it’s deeply rooted in emotions and mindsets, influenced by organizational processes and systems. True culture change goes beyond recognizing the link between culture, performance, and wellbeing—it requires a thorough understanding and implementation of the desired culture across all organizational layers.
  4. Systemic Approach to Change: For culture change to be effective, it must be systemic. Consider a company striving for speed to meet market demands, making it a core value. This necessitates a holistic reinvention of processes, decision-making, and practices at both the individual and team levels. It’s futile to prioritize speed if existing processes are rigid, client procedures are slow, or if there’s a prevailing fear of making mistakes leading to an obsession with perfection. Every aspect of the organization must align with its core values for true transformation.
  5. Linking Personal Work with Vision and Mission: Culture change demands the emotional buy-in of people, best achieved by enabling managers to lead developmental dialogues. Helping individuals craft their own vision of success, tied to their identity and the company’s broader mission, is a powerful motivator. Drawing a picture of the desired future, providing a supportive and creative environment, and encouraging personal development towards that vision ensures a deep-rooted and sustainable culture transformation.

The mistake many companies make is treating culture change as a straightforward project, filled with workshops and dialogues. Real culture shines during tough times, revealing whether a company can truly claim to be customer-focused, innovative, or growth-oriented. Without personal and team development, aiming for a real transformation is futile.

Culture change is a complex, continuous journey, not a destination reached through a checklist. It requires a commitment to developing not just a set of desired behaviors, but a nurturing environment, emotional intelligence, genuine leadership transformation, a systemic overhaul of organizational processes, and a profound alignment of individual aspirations with the organization’s vision.