Painting the roses

paint the rosesAnita pointed out in her last post that influencing organizational culture is a challenge for many leaders. Changing an organization’s culture is even more challenging. As Alice in Wonderland found out, it’s easy to paint the roses, but it’s much harder to make it stick.

Steve Denning from Forbes observed that single-strategy approaches such as adding a new processes or implementing quality improvement rarely result in lasting change. He provided a useful model describing three kinds of tools leaders can use to change culture:  power tools that rely on intimidation, management tools that provide structure and information, and leadership tools that inspire.

Denning recommends beginning culture change with leadership tools such as vision setting and story telling.  This should be supported by strategic management tools to solidify the change. Power tools, including widespread staffing changes and top-down reorganizations, should be used later in the process, if at all.

The Wall Street Journal provided additional tips for leading organizational change:

  1. Identify and start with people who have strong influence on the current culture
  2. Help people personally experience the realities that make the change necessary
  3. Focus on activities that require few resources and will make a big difference
  4. Engage employees by finding new ways to use their strengths and providing new options for collaboration

How have you seen leaders create culture change that went beyond painting the roses to result in lasting difference?

Dee Anne Bonebright


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