For some reason, whenever a leader wants to affect a big shift in the organization, it’s culture that gets picked on. But is culture the problem or the answer?
Some time ago, a lottery company asked for my help in changing their culture. I listened to what they had in mind. Most of the changes they described were tactical, about business strategy. So I took a time out and asked them to tell me about their culture, and then about their values. They were able to describe that culture and list those values quickly. After they’d finished, I asked them if they still believed in respect, honesty, customer service, and execution. They said that they did. There was a pause as this sunk in. I suggested to the group that they weren’t really interested in changing their culture, they were looking to change their business plan. This insight completely rearranged how they were looking to solve their problems.
In fact, the lottery company, like any organization, would be more successful implementing change if they did so from the foundation of their unchanging culture. In the last section of my book Inside the Box, the final chapter is subtitled “Culture trumps strategy every time.” The reason is simple. Deeply rooted behaviours define the values, which are the bedrock of the culture. These elements are the basis for success in the organization. Their taught or passed on from one generation of employees to the next.