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6 Essential Culture Transformation Best Practices

Once upon a time, there was a healthcare provider that was rooted in an old culture and resistant to change. Employees were risk averse and made little impact on the organization. When this healthcare provider merged with another company, there was immediate conflict.

According to the Harvard Business Review, employees had trouble adjusting to the new company’s aggressive culture and struggled to embrace new business initiatives. The new CEO quickly realized that he could not force a major cultural shift within the organization. Instead, he worked closely with respected employees within the healthcare company to understand the values deeply ingrained in the culture. Using these findings, he focused on building a brand that preserved the company’s strengths while also incorporating key aspects of the new company’s culture. As a result, employees across the organization displayed an increased level of comfort in adopting a new cultural framework.

The moral of this happy story? Even in the face of seemingly insurmountable resistance, culture transformation is feasible; however, there are a few best practices that will pave the way to lasting change.

1. Leadership should support culture transformations with business initiatives

  • Leadership should clearly communicate the connection between culture shifts and business initiatives (e.g., cost-cutting) when transforming the current state.

  • Leadership needs to work with business unit leaders to implement cultural changes.


2. Effective culture shifts are rooted in small changes

  • Lasting cultural change is not overly ambitious or complex; it plays upon a company’s strengths and is
    approached with simple solutions.

  • Leaders should take a cultural aspect that’s deeply ingrained in the core values of an organization and
    build changes around this uniting concept.

  • Cultural aspects that are incongruent with business initiatives should be gradually shifted to align with
    new business goals.


3. Change should be presented to an organization as a shared evolution

  • Employees may resent change that feels like a top down imposition. Organization wide change should
    feel like a cooperative effort between leadership and employees.

  • Leadership should embrace and visibly support change.

4. Constant communication is key to organization-wide change

  • The most effective strategic initiatives are ones that are consistently reiterated by leadership.

  • Repeated exposure to important objectives helps employees retain key messaging.

  • Consistent communication is critical to building alignment and effectively executing new initiatives.

  • Open communication with employees fosters a culture of transparency.


5. Culture transformation is driven by individual employees

  • Leadership should rely on respected employees to drive cultural and strategic changes.

  • Increased responsibility should be given to employees who embrace strategic and cultural shifts; they can effectively motivate peers and influence organic change within an organization.

6. Leadership should measure and monitor culture shifts

  • Leadership should play a proactive role in strategic changes by checking progress, course correction, and sharing best practices.

  • Leadership should promote formal interventions through informal interactions.