When there is a leadership change in an organization, there is always a broad idealistic plan on how things are going to change. Invariably, one of the first things a new leader will state as a goal to get things on track is to ‘change the culture’ of the organization. Culture change is an ongoing battle, across all industries and institutions. Unfortunately, culture change is usually one of the first things that simply and quietly falls by the wayside after the initial period of change in lean leadership. There are many reasons why culture change doesn’t work in an organization, but the fact is that all goes back to leadership. Effective lean leadership is the key to success in any organization. When considering quality improvement initiatives and methodologies, changing the culture is crucial to the success of the process.
There can be no doubt that to change the culture, you must change the way the organization thinks. To make that radical leap, everyone in the organization must clearly understand the commitment, vision and focus on the new way. This is the most crucial hurdle a new leader faces. You can give inspiring speeches, send out inspiring emails and cheer the staff on, but if they don’t believe your commitment, then the existing culture will remain firmly intact. Here are a few points to consider when implementing a culture change in an organization.
- Stop Playing With Toys – Across an organization applying lean methodologies, you will find the tools of the trade. Kaizen submission cards, A3 forms, visual management boards and 5S checklists will be scattered across the organization in various forms. Without the proper focus and application, they are seen as ‘toys’ or ‘time-wasters.’ People are just going through the motions using them. There are no results. Leaders must show commitment to their use and demonstrate to the staff that they work! They must see that they provide true value.
- Doing It Cheap – To build a business, you must invest in the business. Training must never be compromised. Get your people training and make sure the training they are provided is the highest quality possible. Ensure that everyone, through proper training, is speaking the same language and focused on the same goals. Leaders must be willing to invest in the future of the organization to get results. There is a difference between cost effectiveness and just being cheap.
- Speak Well – Communicating change and commitment requires character and integrity. It is all in how you say it and you better be ready to back it up. The term ‘or else’ can never be spoken if you are going to build trust and empowerment. Staff must understand that you committed and that you will follow through. Clearly communicate that you will train them, empower them and let them succeed. Leaders are not there to be micro-managers. They are there to train, empower, and eliminate road blocks to success. It is about trust and mindset.
Changing an organization’s culture is tough. It requires lean leadership that is up to the task. They must have a focus and commitment that is unparalleled. There can be no excuses. The only way this can be done is to have a leader that is truly leading from the front. You cannot effect change from your desk, behind a laptop, issuing orders. You must be out among the people who really count. Everyday, you make a little change when you are out there, watching, listening and acting. This will quickly build trust and empowerment which leads to the change in culture you are seeking.