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The Business Case for Culture Change Published: Sunday, May 14, 2000 By: Dr. Manuel Angel Morales

Last Thursday we were working with one of the most prestigious pharmaceutical companies in Puerto Rico, addressing the challenging issue of organizational culture. For them culture is not something remote from the day to day operations. Because they are a company very much oriented by numbers and results, they spend time thinking and working widely with developing the organizational culture. For these excellent managers of this company, culture is one of their chief concerns because it determines the result their people are producing. If a company has the adequate culture, managers can make their numbers without worrying about them.

But how are improved results linked to culture changed? Culture is the sum total of beliefs, mental models and behaviors in an organization. Thoughts and actions determine the results the organization achieves. The logic is one of mental models establishing the conditions for culture and culture complementing the business strategy as an intelligent response to the world, markets and customers. Change the culture (the way people think and act plus transform systems, processes and rewards), and you change the results those people produce.

Efforts to measure culture change should include a focus on results. Apart from surveys, observable shifts in behavior or in the way people feel, improved results are the surest benchmarks of whether the culture has changed and whether the change has been worthwhile. The best measurements are key to important before-during-after results the organization must achieve, and to the beliefs and actions that produce those results. The linkage between culture change and improved results tells managers to manage the culture. It also points to a new kind of job, employment or work venture within organizations, and it is that of instilling beliefs that will drive actions that will produce results. So in the future everyone should be somewhat knowledgeable about the behavioral sciences that help to facilitate these processes.

The point to be stressed. Culture is so tightly linked to results that at times merely communicating the targeted result clearly and forcefully throughout the organization will ignite change.

Employees and professionals of the future will all be in the business of change facilitation. They cannot stay away from measuring cultural transition to results and instead focus solely on individual feelings. Organizations and professionals of all disciplines should ask: What must we stop doing if we are to achieve the desired results?, What we must start doing?, What should we continue doing?

This stop-start-continue method on benchmarking culture, done on paper and by consensus, enable coaches and facilitators to first direct and then monitor culture change with the aid of a kind of Culture Processes Indicators. If the right behaviors have been identified and people perform them, then the change is underway and results will surely follow.

Change agents, constructive agitators in charge, will best serve their organizations by using and enabling people to use, creative measures for designing and inducing new and positive experiences for people in cultural transitions.


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