Embracing Change

Lesson 3: Topic 7 of 8

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When you replace an outmoded business model, rearrange the org chart, or need to rework strategy, you’re introducing a change to the culture. And all of those things will be eventually necessary, if not always welcome. 

It appears there isn’t a great deal of research into transformation of corporate culture, and what little there is seems alarming: the failure rate is at least 70 per cent. The reassuring news is that the successful ones share elements in common: they all had high employee satisfaction and staff were compensated above what their competitors paid.  

A growing (or shrinking) phase creates a delicate but doable task of maintaining culture. Entrepreneurs understand this, but even those who work in large, established businesses may undergo this type of upheaval. The author ― more than once! ― has been involved in businesses that grew from an initial handful of staff who knew each other personally to larger organizations where most employees barely recognize one another. Where once each person wore multiple hats and some were involved in every aspect of the job, specialization and segmentation become necessary as the workload and the number of workers increased. If not handled well, this kind of transition can be very demoralizing, especially to the staff who’ve been around from the startup days. In this phase, communicating and demonstrating the culture you want to maintain becomes more important than ever. If Market Basket executives had sought employee input, they might have saved themselves a great deal of headache.

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Since change is inevitable, plan for it:

  • Once leadership foresees the need for change, begin to communicate it broadly. Be as transparent as possible about what’s going on. This will prevent staff feeling blindsided when changes are implemented.
  • Change is stressful (even when it is good) and stress is contagious. Don’t neglect your own or the staff’s wellbeing during this time. 
  • Maintain a positive, calm attitude. 
  • Make changes as incremental as possible to watch for and correct any pushback or unforeseen ramifications.
  • Celebrate the successes brought about by the changes.

Company cultures evolve, but core values are supposed to endure. It’s important to recognize what’s happening and navigate the transition.