How Do You Integrate Culture Change into your Strategic Plan?

Note: Last week I presented the notion of how to convince leadership that culture change is necessary.  The next step is to systematize and integrate culture (emotion) with strategic planning (logic). Enjoy. As always, you can find all my blog posts from 2013 to the present on my website at

Talk is Cheap!
I find that once the need for change is announced within an organization or company, the initial reaction is fear and dread; "Am I going to lose my job?" The second reaction/question is, "Why?" Then, as it starts to sink in and, if a cogent explanation is offered as to who, why, when, where, how, etc., the next sentiment expressed is, "Sure, change their department, but leave mine alone?"

Sounds kind of funny, but it brings up a good point; most people in the workplace are focused on their own needs and not those of the greater organization. (NOTE: Next week I will delve into the concept and the crucial need for teamwork in the workplace). But, all of the above brings us to the origin of the above reactions - emotion. As I mentioned last week, change is constant; the weather changes, the seasons change, the world changes, and we change (we age). Ironically, human engineering is structured physiologically to seek homeostasis (no change)! As a result, when the notion of change is introduced into the work environment, it upsets the biological foundation of us humans.

How Do We Get Past this Hard-Wired Cognitive Dissonance?

Let's be real now; what we are really talking about here is "FRIGHT" - one of the three primal emotions that have been with us since the first humans walked upright. (The other two figure in here, too; "FIGHT" and "FLIGHT".) Think about how we deal with fright; we can fight or we can flee; or we can, with practice, training, and habit, overcome fright when there are clear steps to follow toward an end point or destination. How else could soldiers charge into potentially fatal confrontations with others that have a different opinion? Training and practice can lead to systematizing emotion when humans are placed under duress and possible loss of their own life.

We Aren't in Armed Conflict Situations in Our Workplace - Then What?
Very few of us are regularly placed in situations when the potential for loss of life or limb is present (hopefully!). I suggest that we move the same process described above to the concept of culture and strategic planning. By systematizing culture change in an orderly fashion and charted in a step-by-step manner within a strategic plan, we can alleviate much of the fear that is associated with changing culture.

How Do We Measure It?
Peter Drucker once said, "What gets measured, gets improved." How then do we measure something as amorphous as culture and any change associated with same? Lots of ways. Take, for example, a medical group I worked with a few years ago. They established some very high level outcomes for culture change in the areas of:

  1. Enhanced teamwork;
  2. Respecting everyone's personal worth;
  3. Friendly atmosphere;
  4. Opportunities for growth; and,
  5. Compensation

They then established milestones and leading and lagging metrics for each of these desired outcomes:

  1. Enhanced teamwork - team-building as a leading metric and a staff satisfaction survey as a lagging metric;
  2. Respecting everyone's personal worth - creating an idea bowl as a leading metric and an exit interview as a lagging metric;
  3. Friendly atmosphere - employee training as a leading metric and patient and staff satisfactions surveys as a lagging metric;
  4. Opportunities for growth - incentives for leading and staff meetings and exit interview data as lagging; and,
  5. Competitive compensation - market comps for leading and compensation breakdown and staff retention as lagging.

The last steps involve assigning staff responsibilities for each of the above, linkage to other objectives in the overall plan, resources needed, risks if these factors didn't happen and potential mitigation for same.

This works - try it and see!

Next week: Creating Serious Teamwork