Why Your Culture Change Program Isn’t Working, and What to Do About It.
Operations Transformation

What are you creating?

Operations transformation is top of mind for many leaders, yet too many organisations make little tweaks here and there, holding events, conducting surveys and launching projects in a bid to ‘fix’ company culture as a foundation for the transformation.


One off culture “fixing” interventions don’t have a lasting impact. All these events do is ‘wobble the jelly’ – a slight ripple occurs in the cultural matrix but things soon return to centre, like wobbling jelly. Too often these interventions are more about leaders having a good feeling about doing something, rather than having any real or lasting impact.


The fact is, as a leader, YOU set the cultural tone of the organisation. You create a culture around you and until a tipping point of individuals take responsibility for what they are creating moment by moment, there will be no lasting change.


When you change your personal culture, the organisation culture starts to change. If you want to create culture change, it starts with you.


So how are you behaving? Are you role modelling the following behaviours and encouraging others to do the same?


Defining the business direction

Have you done this in a way that connects with all levels of the business? What use is a five-year plan if your employees can’t see how their day-to-day activities connect with it?


When employees can see clearly how their activities fit in with the overall direction of the business, they can modify their behaviours and priorities to line up with the organisation’s goals.


If you asked anyone in your business how they contribute to the business direction and results, would you get a consistent or coherent answer?



Are you listening for the value in what people are saying? Are you creating an environment where people feel genuinely heard and understood? This requires consistent work on building trusting relationships and this can be challenging for some leaders.


The existence of positional power seems to come with an unwritten rule – that we hold our leaders to a higher standard of behaviour than ourselves. If leaders don’t meet that behaviour standard, employees gossip about and have less respect for the leader.


So how is your listening? Can you listen without pre-judging and look for the value and positive intent in what someone is saying?


Speaking Up

Are you speaking in a way that is taking the business towards its goals? Are you paying attention to the impact of your speaking? What does that mean? Well, are you noticing how others react when you speak and then following up if you think there has been a misunderstanding?


So many relationships break down because one person has objected to something that was said but didn’t follow up or say anything. If you aren’t listening well, will your direct reports tell you or will they just work around you?


Ideally you have created a shared understanding that speaking up with you is no problem and you will listen to understand first, even if you don’t agree.


Are your team members constantly censoring what they say, to the point that you don’t hear the truth or the real value they could add. What happens if a team member challenges you? How do you react to that?


“Managers who react defensively when criticised by team members do not create a great culture”


Being For Each Other

How do you react when you hear gossip? Do you speak up and challenge the person to clean up their relationship with the person they are gossiping about? If you let gossip go, you are condoning it and you aren’t creating the right culture.


What happens if you disagree with someone in your organisation? Does that create unfinished business and if it does, what do you do with that? Not resolving unfinished business creates a lack of collaboration at best and political infighting and undermining at worst. How does that benefit the business?


Honouring Commitments

Do you wear your commitments like a badge of honour? If you aren’t prioritising constantly and delivering on your commitments, you are role modelling the wrong behaviour.


When commitments get honoured, people start trusting each other to deliver. ‘We do what we say’ soon becomes the norm, and the impact on people and business results can be profound. It starts with simple things like being on time, and getting back to people when you said you would.


Acknowledgment and Appreciation

How often do you acknowledge and appreciate others? When you practice acknowledgment, how are you doing that? Do you go further than “good job”? When acknowledgment is done well, it impacts the whole team, not just the individual.


Employees whose effort is acknowledged regularly are much more motivated and that influences those around them i.e. the culture starts to change.


“If you want to change the culture, start with you. There’s nowhere else to start.”


As an operations leader, you may be feeling pressure from all sides – your CEO is asking for year on year savings, your customers want better service, all while business and product complexity continues to rise. As each year passes, the challenge of delivering these gains gets ever harder.


The Operations Transformation Guide summarises three foundational practices and approaches to transformation that many organisations don’t do well. These are not the only ingredients of success, but their absence has the greatest impact. In our experience, mastering these foundations will make the difference between incremental improvement and genuine transformation.