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The Future of Culture and Change Management

Kudos to you if you read this blog over tea and breakfast, as that will help reinforce what we’re here to discuss.

 

One expansion no one could argue in 2020 is the line between those who’ve suffered from the pandemic and social unrest, versus those who have grown and flourished. While the former’s often done so because of those tumultuous events … the latter has prospered despite them.

 

You’ll search far and wide to hear about any of this in the media, traditional or social. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, to hear even less about how, or why they’re doing so well. This isn’t a set of circumstances that align to spark your curiosity. You’re supposed to feel doom and gloom.

 

Yet around the world, under lockdown or riots, some leaders and organisations thrive. We who care for the future of change leadership should be quick to ponder their success. They can’t all be “lucky,” or positively aligned and connected to the right political benefactors. They can’t all be members of a secret cabal, or conspiratorial group with unlimited cash.

 

These groups aren’t isolated geographically. They’re not limited to a certain industry. They aren’t confined by whether or not they do a digital or terrestrial business. Some of them are members of industries that took massive losses because of the lockdowns and recessions. They run the gamuts of diversity, and homogeneity. They succeed in First and Third World environments.

 

So what is the secret to steering an organisation toward prosperity and development, in an age where the dominant narrative is that everything’s falling to pieces?

 

One central component of answering intelligently is culture, which you can learn to create with the tools and strategies available in Unitive’s online education platform.

Why Must It Be A Curse?

 In the early 20th Century, when American industrialist Henry Ford popularised the motor car, it signalled the death of the stagecoach, horse-and-trap industry.

 

Until that time, labourers and entrepreneurs of that business could rely on a market for their trade almost anywhere they went. There were always people who needed boarding, shoeing and branding services for their horses. There were usually wealthier people, or large companies, who needed stagecoaches to transport multiple people at a time. Some made their living as “stagecoaches-for-hire,” like modern tour buses do.

 

The automobile industry left all that in the dust, forcing millions of workers to retrain for a new era in the business of getting people from “A” to “B.” There was no shortage of need for mechanics, oil-and-lube, petrol station attendants, dealerships, salesmen, assembly line workers and corporate employees for manufacturers.

 

The reality of that time wasn’t much different from today, in that living wage work and a minimum desirable lifestyle were quite attainable … if you could let go of the past. There may, however, have been a culture readier to accept such change at the time. Society was less fully organized and ironclad in its structure; there was more openness and wildness to it than there is today.

 

We no longer have a terrestrial world (in the West) that corresponds to the openness of the early 1900s. That vastness now exists online, and the destruction of COVID-19 and the unrest of 2020 is “forcing us forward,” where humanity can still find some form of expression without interference from the physical world’s gridlock.

 

Regardless of how you feel about this, we’re being pulled in that direction. And early adopters who embraced and pioneered this “new world” now wield far greater influence. Not merely because of their vast economic strength, but also because the world is being forced, to various extents, to adopt their culture.

 

Perhaps, rather than letting the news media drag us deeper into the ditch, we should demand constant education about building culture, so we can lead effectively through change. You can get such quality content by joining Unitive’s online education platform.

How To Put Culture On A Diet

 At best, most organisations can do a 30-day weight loss program, before their endemic culture comes roaring back with a vengeance. So, when we discuss putting culture on a “diet,” you should not picture a “fad diet.” This represents a lifestyle change, with definitive agreement about who you are … and who you’re not.

 

Part of the change we’re confronting involves adaptation of our social mindset. If you read our earlier blog on the different categories of mindset, you’ll recall we can’t lead change by making cold, calculated and numerically-driven decisions. Vis-a-vis, raping/pillaging the planet and abusing human beings are not viable strategic options for the change leader.

 

In another recent blog, we also learned about embodying the change. This is a deliberate daily responsibility for leaders, to consistently model “the way we do things around here,” in Seth Godin’s words. 

 

Cultural assessments are the paramount starting points for putting any culture on a diet. Decisions you make to reshape a culture will involve interfacing with the existing one. You’ll need to redefine it primarily by how you think, which gets reflected in how you behave.

 

Be advised – your team will find it more difficult to correctly interpret your behaviour, if you don’t go to the trouble of articulating it through your vision. Particularly if you’re trying to mold new culture during the more difficult times of an organisation’s life cycle.

 

At incubation, when a group is in start-up mode, vision is absolutely critical. When they achieve the next phase, growth, you then face the added layer of overcoming a highly dissuasive abundance of success. As the old saying goes, “Why ruin a good thing?” In the maturity phase, you’ll fight the longest battle – overcoming entrenched, heavily fortified ways and means that command the support of data and deliver predictable success.

 

But all organisations come to retirement, where they must evolve or transform to remain alive. At that point, change management becomes a lifeline to them, as you can see during this pivotal moment for so many groups that got sideswiped by COVID. One might even suggest that all of humanity is in some degree of “retirement” right now. And just as the Coronavirus is most deadly to the eldest among us, so is its spiritual counterpart toward human organisations.

 

If that’s the case, we can adapt to current culture. If we can adapt to it, there is still a chance to create it anew. But it will be a gradual process that recognises and validates both “micro-cultures” and the larger, “mothership” culture. One of the biggest obstacles to permanent change is the “silo” mentality that crops up when one unhealthy micro-culture clashes with another. 

 

Until every subculture is healthy, you must treat your organisation as “not fully integrated.” Otherwise, there isn’t much point in developing a strategy to lead. As business maven Peter Drucker once observed, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

 

We’ll have more to say on positioning yourself to lead change amid this whirlwind. But we encourage you to brush up in the meantime, with the help of Unitive’s online education platform.