Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Cultural change? Change behaviours

A typical case of “change culture” need arises in sales forces that have been created with strong individualistic ethos. You have hired people able to sell ice to Eskimos and for years rewarded them with big bonus for their individual sales performance.

Now you have discovered that the Darwinian system that has worked in the past may not be suitable in a new environment where collaboration and sharing information between people is key to your strategy (for example combined sales forces with new and old territories all in one).

In cultural terms you have a great individualistic culture and you want to change it to a great collaborative culture, and still meet the targets. Cultural discussions will take you to painful territories. You are better off “forgetting the culture” and translating the change into behavioural change.

What is that the rep and district manager now have to do different and how are you going to reward the new behaviours?

Since there was perhaps no habit of collaboration you may need to start with a bit of social-engineering and create initiatives that require by definition, and in their own merit, people talking to people and sharing data. These need to be rewarded. Individualistic non-sharing doesn’t get any reward anymore. These kind of process are extremely powerful.

Despite common belief, the way people behave can be changed very quickly. It’s a psychological nonsense to believe that is not. Surprisingly, many people in business believe that it is difficult or impossible. This is in total contradiction with day life in the social and political arena where behaviours shift in hours.

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