What Impact Does Culture Change Have on Results?

In Cindy Krischer Goodman’s article “Culture change: Just do it” (Miami Herald, 10/6/2010), there are two examples of successful cultural transformations in progress. If you missed the article, it was about how Barbara Simmons, CEO of Plantation General Hospital, has rallied her employees’ customer service and job satisfaction and the efforts of Kim Cripe, CEO of Children’s Hospital of Orange County to increase the quality of service at her institution.

In both cases, the CEOs realized the need to make changes to their corporate culture in order to improve outcomes. Most companies want to change outcomes but are not really committed to doing what it takes. They usually change some policies and procedures and throw in a training course. While these steps are valid parts of the journey, the real issues usually are cultural, stemming from the top and cascading down. They are flawed leadership and management philosophies and are hidden weaknesses that prevent organizations from getting what they need. Until the CEO takes responsibility and makes personal changes, there will be no sustainable improvements in the rest of the organization.

Goodman’s article pointed to three important factors. First, for cultural transformation to take hold, an organization has to be ready to make a 2-to 3-year commitment. Employees will likely push back, expecting yet another “program of the month” that will fade shortly after it’s announced, and, because change is never comfortable, will try to make things stay the same. Second, it is essential to create a vision to rally everyone around and to clarify the non-negotiable core values that will be expected from everyone. You then have to train everyone on what behaviors demonstrate those values and institutionalize them. Lastly, the CEO (most importantly) and top leaders must put themselves out there as the catalysts for changes. They have to be out there every day as the catalyst for change. You cannot outsource or delegate this to a consultant, trainer, coach, or subordinate.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies and people that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.