By Shelina Damji, Kepner-Tregoe 

Using new skills is all about cultural change Successful change relies on people actually wanting to make a move, you cannot force cultural and organizational change, you need to guide and encourage it

The saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” This is something that needs to be carefully considered when you are making any changes to the way people work.

No matter how well intentioned, planned or researched these changes may be, if you do not manage cultural and organizational change, then the time and financial commitment you have made is likely to go the way of many other improvement initiatives – absolutely nowhere.

Training people to understand any new skills, including Kepner-Tregoe skills, is only part of the equation. Understanding if the culture of the organization will allow people to make use of these new skills is critical.

Management support is key

The support for any initiative needs to come from management; getting this support and having the correct message coming from the top is essential.

Too often the initial support comes from the right place, with enthusiastic managers espousing the benefits of the new way of working at a launch meeting; but this is where their involvement stops.

Providing the budget does not equal providing support, ultimately the success of any initiative needs much more than money and lip service. Support must last throughout the life of the initiative and needs to be clearly visible to the organization. Management needs to vocalize and publicize their support in both formal and informal communications. A quick “how are you finding the new way of working?” to an individual staff member in the break room is just as important as a statement of support in a company newsletter or a formal presentation.

Much more than talking the talk

The leaders in an organization need to do much more than simply say that they support the initiative, they need to be seen embracing the changed culture. They cannot be seen reverting to historical ways of working. If management does not make the change, how can they expect anyone else to move?

Demonstrating commitment to changes in the way the organization functions—on a daily basis—is a key component to the ultimate success of any change.

Find your leaders

Leaders and managers are not necessarily the same people. You need to understand who the people are that your team members look up to, the people that they respect and try to emulate. Getting these leaders onboard is an important factor in your cultural change; if you are not able to do that, then your chances of success are greatly diminished.

These leaders can be your champions, if they are brought on early in planning your change. Having champions in all affected areas of the organization will improve the acceptance of any change initiative.

Articulate the benefits

You need to understand exactly what the long-term benefits you are trying to achieve for the organization, and you need to be able to articulate them in language that can be clearly understood.

Cultural change is much more than a good communication plan, which is where many plans for embedding change start and end. A well-structured communication strategy is a critical part of any cultural change program, but success depends on a lot more than a few well written emails and newsletters.

Lead – do not push

Lead by example, provide tangible incentives and make sure your staff understands the benefits—to them and to the business. Don’t be serious all the time; try and have some fun! Forcing people to change is seldom successful, you need to make them want to change: lead your team on a journey rather than a forced march.

You need to remember that it is human nature to resist change; we are creatures of habit and when we are pushed to change, the natural reaction is to push back. Paying attention to the human factor will help you make a new way of working “just the way we do things around here”.

Would you like to improve critical thinking at your organization?

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