Thursday, 18 October 2007

Myth 4: Cultural change is a slow and painful long-term affair

It is also a strongly held belief that cultural change is slow, painful and not something to be achieved in the short term. It is almost natural for people to think that way. Our view of the culture is one of that one macro-frame that is ‘the cause of everything’, so any attempt to change ‘that thing’ surely has to come associated with parameters such as long-term, pain, difficulty, etc. And we all know one example or two of this. People with this kind of experience have difficulty seeing things differently. And how could they?

The trick is to change the paradigm, excuse my language. And instead of seeing culture as the cause of ‘the behaviours’, we should focus on behaviours and manage/change them to see cultural change. The introduction of my book, Viral Change, is entitled Change behaviours, get culture. Viral Change takes a pragmatic approach and sees that when a small set of non-negotiable behaviours is installed in the organisation and becomes stable and widespread, these behaviours will have the capacity to create new routines, rules and norms which will equal ‘cultural change’. These changes are possible in short time frames such as three or six months. Viral Change is very adamant that if we can’t see those 'cultural changes' happening in those timeframes, something is wrong.

The power of the internal network to spread new behaviours is immense. Cultural change doesn’t have to be a long-term, painful affair. It is not something that is so big that we will have to postpone it until we have some serious time. That is, not this year, next year, maybe… It is something that can be done now and show you results in the next few months. You can read more on how in Viral Change or on my website.

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