How To Change Your Corporate Culture In Time?

30 April 2016
Knowledge Base

by Tony de Bree

One of my favourite books on change is this book ‘The Fat Firm’. Why? Because the book mainly uses cartoons to demonstrate the behaviour of employees and managers in large corporates (‘Dinosaurs’ or like in the case of Banking ‘Jurassic banks’). Corporate culture is a hot topic again in large organisations and in management circles. With special attention focus on how managers and employees in large corporates can start to behave like managers and employees in startups. That is why in this column, I will help you in finding the correct ‘levers of change’ for your corporate culture and to transform your organisation from a ‘boss-centric’ one to an organisation with a ‘client-centric’ corporate culture. What is corporate culture?

The corporate culture in any large or small organization is actually describing ‘how we do things in the organization’. The corporate culture is based on a number of things:

–  the core values of the organization;

–  the management philosophy used: ‘the organization as a machine with resources’ or the organization as a living company, like a living organism;

–  the way managers and employees are rewarded, promoted, demoted and ‘punished’;

–  recruitment and selection of managers and employees including young people within the organization internally and to get in in the first place;

–  the visible behaviour of team leaders, managers and especially top managers including in the Board and especially the example that is given by the CEO;

–  the quality and quantity of IT-systems;

–  the performance indicators used in the different performance measurement systems;

and the structure of the organization.

Corporate ‘boss-centric’ culture

In many large traditional corporate organizations, the corporate culture is actually ‘boss-centric’: all of these ‘levers of change’ are systematically promoting a behaviour of ‘we do it all for the boss’. The performance of managers and employees is mainly reviewed by looking at how quickly they read and answer emails from their manager of the CEO and other control and cost focused performance drivers and not much on customer loyalty of the real external paying customers and other performance drivers related to customers, employees and partners. One of the ways you can recognize such a culture is when people talk about ‘internal customers’.
How to change the corporate culture?

So if you want to know how to change the corporate culture and fast, than basically what you have to do is change the different ‘levers of change’ in such a way that people within the organization will demonstrate the desired new, entrepreneurial behaviour like people in a startup often are demonstrating. So the values, the structure, the HRM-processes, the performance measurement systems. In practice this means that you will probably have to replace after a professional assessment using the desired new competency-profiles of the new managers and the new employees a large part of the current top and middle management. Which is logical as they were selected and hired with the traditional competency profile in mind.

A word of caution

A word of caution is important though. Although many business schools and other training institutes are telling you that we all can become customer-centric and internal entrepreneurs by following their expensive training and using their expensive tools, in reality of course that is not the case. Many of us just do not have it in us to develop the right customer-centric attitude and behaviour and change our mind-set from ’employee’ or ‘manager’ to ‘entrepreneur’.

And the quicker you realize that, the better you and your organization will be equipped to beat the competition and become one of the real digital leaders by transforming yourself and your organization before it is too late. Like I wrote in my PhD thesis on ‘Digital Transformation of Financial Services Companies’ in 2001: ‘blow yourself up before somebody else does it’. And that advice still stand in 2016.

The author, Tony de Bree is a trusted digital transformation, strategy & change advisor, internet entrepreneur, keynote speaker and published author with 26 years of experience in Global Banking & Finance.

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