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Change an organization’s culture with a movement

For those organizations seeking to become adaptive to the changing times, a change in culture is one of the biggest challenges in the process of transformation. Organizations constantly need to innovate themselves and innovation demands new behavior from the leaders as well as employees. A change in culture cannot be achieved with a top down mandate, it comes through social movements and leaders need to learn from the initiators to engage and mobilize the masses to create societal norms that are suitable for the organization. 

Social movements start small and begin with a few passionate enthusiasts who deliver modest wins. The small wins are powerful and demonstrate efficacy to the nonparticipants which helps the movement gain momentum. Eventually, the leaders leverage their momentum and change the formal rules of the society. Leaders should be slow and clear in the process of translation of the social movement in the organization.

Leaders should first frame the issue in a form that will stir emotion and generate action. Simply explaining the need to change will not help. Leaders will need to create a sense of urgency to harness people’s commitment towards change. Further, leaders are good at recognizing the power of small wins. This will help other individuals to join the movement and work for the cause. The leader should not simply declare the result they wish to see, instead, they should set examples of actions they hope to achieve. This could mean creation of actions that will help the achievement of the culture shift.

Build coalitions by bridging disparate groups and form a larger network that will share a common purpose. This can be simply done by activating the existing networks for the purpose. Social networks can be used to spread ideas and involve individuals. Next, develop and deploy symbols that create a feeling of solidarity in the outside world. These symbols could be as simple as a button supporting the cause or a t shirt.

The biggest challenge here is that the leader is usually seen in a position of authority and this leads to the overuse of one’s power in the hope of bringing in quick transformation. It is also easy for the leader to shy away from the friction in the organization. Although harmony is preferred, this could sometimes lead to disagreement among individuals. A minor amount of friction is positive because a complete absence of friction means less people are involved and nothing is changing.

Lastly, it is important to remember that change only happens when people take action. It is important to change the structure of the company, but a more successful approach is to lead by example and tackle all sorts of issues after you have shown people the change you wish to see. It is the leader who has to lead the change and ensure that every individual in the movement looks at it positively. Leading by example will encourage individuals to achieve the same and also push the non-participants to be a part of the movement. 

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