The following is a framework
for addressing cultural change. It is based on cultural changes seen in both corporate and public environments. Using this framework, we can develop programs to move an organization towards a culture in which it hopes to operate vs the culture in which it currently operates. A framework for approaching Cultural Change
Here are your ACTIVISTS. These
are the motivated people who are leading the effort to change. Sometimes they have leadership positions, sometimes they do not. RULEMAKERS ACTIVITISTS
When your RULEMAKERS and ACTIVISTS
are aligned, the population will more easily move toward the intended behavior. When the rules support the intended movement, progress can be mandated. RULEMAKERS ACTIVITISTS Consider the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The RULEMAKERS (Congress) move to support of the work of the ACTIVISTS (Civil Rights leaders) and large scale cultural progress is formalized.
When the ANTI-ACTIVISTS influence as
strongly as the ACTIVISTS, their efforts cancel out and the population doesn’t move. This stalemate will persist if the RULEMAKERS do not exert an influence one way or another. RULEMAKERS ACTIVITISTS ANTI-ACTIVITISTS An example of this is the debate around abortion in the US. Here, both sides work tirelessly to influence. In contrast to attitudes towards civil rights, the population has moved hardly at all since the 1960’s.
There are also OUTSIDERS who
are not subject to the influence of either the RULEMAKERS or the ACTIVISTS. However, they are important because they provide social proof to the population. RULEMAKERS ACTIVITISTS ANTI-ACTIVITISTS OUTSIDERS
When the OUTSIDER position is
heavily polarized compared to the target population, there may be movement regardless of what the RULEMAKERS or ACTIVISTS want to see happen. RULEMAKERS ACTIVITISTS OUTSIDERS In a corporate environment, this can be seen when all other competitors in an industry adopt a practice or develop a service. Examples include airlines charging for checked bags or banks loosening underwriting standards to stay competitive.
It’s important to consider that
sometimes the OUTSIDERS may be much, much larger than the target population. RULEMAKERS ACTIVITISTS OUTSIDERS The OUTSIDER population might be huge!
Nirvana for cultural change occurs
when the RULEMAKERS, ACTIVISTS, and OUTSIDERS all align to paint a vision of the future that seems clear to everyone. RULEMAKERS ACTIVITISTS OUTSIDERS Weak / Non-existent ANTI-ACTIVITISTS A clear example of this is the dot-com boom of the late 90’s where everyone saw the value of doing business on the internet.
You can group your population
into three subsets regarding the adoption of cultural change. SUPPORTERS and SKEPTICS take more and less adoptive stances towards the change. THE CROWD is indifferent with the change, but will move with the larger audience. SUPPORTERS SKEPTICS THE CROWD
As you make progress towards
cultural change, you will see the population of SUPPORTERS grow and SKEPTICS shrink. Obviously, a population with more SUPPORTERS is easier to move. SUPPORTERS SKEPTICS THE CROWD
To accelerate cultural change, stories
of HEROES demonstrating model behavior need to be shared and celebrated. The SKEPTICS need to be shown PROOF that the new ways are better. SKEPTICS THE CROWD HEROES SUPPORTERS PROOF Nordstrom and Zappos spend a lot of time cultivating HEROES and sharing stories in their culture. Lou Gerstner used his own behavior and financial results as PROOF to win over the SKEPTICS while transforming IBM.
ACTIVISTS and RULEMAKERS need to
provide OPPORTUNITIES for SUPPORTERS to become HEROES. This can be though arranging events or simply giving people PERMISSION to exhibit the model behavior. SKEPTICS THE CROWD TO BE A HERO SUPPORTERS OPPORTUNITIES From the Civil Rights movement, Rosa Parks was asked to play the role of HERO. In business, the RULEMAKERS at Lockheed Martin separated a Skunk Works® team to work outside the normal rules. Google and 3M build these opportunities into the everyday work life of their engineers.
RULEMAKERS ACTIVITISTS SUPPORTERS SKEPTICS THE
CROWD 1. RULEMAKERS give PERMISSION and incentive to ACTIVISTS and SUPPORTERS to exhibit model behaviors. 2. ACTIVISTS work to create OPPORTUNITIES for SUPPORTERS to become HEROES. 3. HERO STORIES are shared with SUPPORTERS and THE CROWD to give energy to the movement. 4. Real-world results and evidence from OUTSIDERS are shared with SKEPTICS as PROOF that this cultural movement is the more valid model for the future. HEROES How it can work together OUTSIDERS
There are two common actors
in cultural change that are purposefully avoided in this framework: VILLAINS These are the people whose actions represent the direct opposite behavior of the HEROES. In this framework, these actors could be considered HEROES to the ANTI-ACTIVISTS. This framework asserts that VILLAIN STORIES will be counterproductive for the change effort, because it acts to polarize and energize the SKEPTICS and ANTI-ACTIVISTS. EXTREMISTS These are far-end activists. In the real-world, these may materialize as fringe organizations or individual radicals. It’s important to recognize that these actors may help a cause by painting the moderate ACTIVISTS as more reasonable actors. However, in a corporate environment, EXTREMISTS are probably not tolerated (for long) and don’t need to be incorporated in this framework. Who is avoided in this framework?