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Why Subtlety Is Critical To Organizational Change

Updated: May 13, 2020

Written by CultureCon Guest Blogger and 2019 Breakout Speaker, Andrea (Belk) Olson

When organizations examine ways to improve their culture and communications, they often look to the obvious. Simplifying overly complex processes, eliminating redundancies, encouraging people to be more collaborative and so forth. However, for some reason, many organization's cultures end up changing only marginally or even not at all. The company's leaders then search for alternative ways to increase productivity and positivity, whether it be high-level leadership training or employee engagement programs (i.e. parties). For a while, spirits improve, but things then fall back into the old groove.

I've seen throughout many organizational transformation efforts, an overly simplistic view of what truly impacts change. Leaders examine and address the basic blocking-and-tackling elements, but frequently not the subtle things that influence the success or failure of initiatives like these.

Consider the idea of collaboration - the majority of leaders we talk to say that lack of collaboration is an obstacle to their organization's growth. So they put together cross-functional teams, create incubators, and "encourage" collaboration through broad communications such as newsletters and internal email campaigns. The problem is, these are the basics - what is minimally required and expected to begin an organizational culture shift in this area. But the deeper, more important aspects are the subtle elements that influence behaviors.

When we think of change, we often look to process, but what really impacts change is shifting individual mindsets through behaviors. For example, if you want your team to collaborate more or "better", simply providing them a space to collaborate and the permission to do so is not enough. It is essential to help individuals understand how they can effectively collaborate through clear example behaviors. It is essential to help individuals understand why collaboration benefits them - for the team, for the organization, and most importantly - for them personally. It is essential to help individuals understand how to become more open to new ideas and perspectives, through discussion facilitation and reinforcement.

While we often want to glaze over the process of culture development and change by simply dictating the behaviors we want to see, it's not half enough. The way to create lasting and sustainable change is by creating a unified front to address the subtle aspects of change - influencing and reinforcing the right behaviors through guidance and representation - throughout the organization. Culture change isn't created, it's learned - and learning takes time. It takes repetition, and more importantly, it takes consistency.

When you're examining how to address your organization's challenges, look to the subtle elements that influence change. Because the obvious ones you already know and are likely already implementing. So it's not about more of the same, but about addressing the underlying behaviors that truly shape culture - and sometimes they can be hard to spot.


About the Author:

Andrea's 22-year, field-tested background provides unique, practical approaches to creating more efficient, more competitive, customer-centric organizations. award-winner, she began her career at a tech start-up and led the strategic sales, marketing and customer engagement efforts at two global industrial manufacturers. She now leads a management and communications consultancy, dedicated to helping organizations transform their organizational cultures from "internally-focused" to "customer-centric."

In addition to writing and consulting, Andrea speaks to leaders and industry organizations around the world on how to craft effective customer-centric organizations. Connect with Andrea to access information on her book, workshops, keynote speeches, training or consulting.

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