Over Coming Barriers to Change

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Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Change
Moving to a high performance culture

How will you get round the barriers?
How does your organization approach change? Do people respond with a sharp intake of breath when they first hear about a proposed new initiative, and then go on to try and find reasons why it won't work? Or do they react by saying things like "What a great idea, and we could also.." In other words, is your corporate culture against or for change? Corporate culture is a powerful force that runs through every organization. It is defined as the attitudes, experiences, beliefs, and values that operate within an organization. And these undercurrents define people's behavior, and how a company gets things done, in either positive or negative ways. When successful change is the desired outcome, these cultural factors play a very important role. If an organization has had a negative experience of change in the past, then change will be that much more difficult the next time around. Likewise, if the prevailing attitude is represented by the saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", then making any kind of change will be met with that much more resistance. Effecting change is difficult at the best of times. When you encounter resistance due to cultural elements, it can be even more frustrating. This is because the very elements of corporate culture are so difficult to see and pinpoint. It is worth remembering here that while culture issues can present barriers to change, they can also support change and goal achievement. To overcome cultural barriers the best way to start is to look at the characteristics of a high performance culture. Once you know what you "should" be doing or promoting, it is easier to make a plan to revamp your current situation.

There is no such thing as a perfect culture. An organization's culture is unique and special and it evolves from all the experiences, growth, and development that have already occurred. So while there is no ideal to aspire to, what you do want to do is set in place characteristics that will help your organization adapt to whatever comes its way. There's a saying that "the only constant is change" which has some truth to it, so every organization needs to encourage values, beliefs, and structures that support change.

The Characteristics of High-Performance Cultures
By definition, one of the main differences between high-performance cultures and low-performance ones is their ability to adapt and change. In general terms, a low-performance organization is one in which there are many barriers to change. When organizations are able to embrace change and easily implement systems to support it, they tend to be more successful. The following chart lists cultural characteristics the support and obstruct change. Is your organization more on the left or right hand side of the chart? Cultural Barriers to Change| Cultural Supports for Change| Fear and distrust – thinking that everyone is out for themselves| Trust in the company and the people that work there| Concern with short-term profits and the bottom line| Long-term business focus| Hierarchical structure with top-down decision making| Employee empowerment to make decisions| Looking for blame and fault, people shirk responsibility| Personal accountability and responsibility| Poor communication – the "messenger is shot", information is hidden, employees are uninformed and skeptical| Open and honest communication – information is sought after| Preference for the status quo, believes what is currently being done is the right thing to do| Openness to new ideas and ways of doing things| Failure is covered up| Failure triggers investigation and analysis| Crushing of new ideas, with criticism given with intent to find fault| Promotion of innovation and creativity| "Us versus Them" mentality, turf wars between departments or business...
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