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Change Management

Organisational Culture Change – Circles of 10

I’ve just been reading “Organizational Culture Change – Unleashing your organization’s potential in circles of 10” by Marcella Bremer and thought it worth sharing some comments.  It contains many of the useful change models that I use with clients and, overall, I found it a useful reminder of some good principles.

The author describes it as a pragmatic user’s guide to organisational culture change and she states that her approach is to keep change small, personal and focused on specific behaviours in peer groups of ten trusted co-workers. Hence, the circles of ten.

7 Conditions for Change is one of the first frameworks described:

  • Commitment from the top
  • Clarity on current and desired situation and goals
  • Consensus and commitment from workers
  • Continuous communication
  • Copy-Coach-Correct: Consistency
  • Create critical mass
  • Carry on

Of these, the first is in my experience, a stumbling block for many organisations where senior people expect everyone else to change their behaviour, but carry on in the same old way, themselves.  Copy-Coach-Correct strikes me as a really simple message for senior people to take on board.  People will do what you do (copy). Coach them if necessary and correct any unwanted behaviours. Above all, do this consistently.

The book also describes a 7 step guide to culture change where the key step is to create a “How to change Plan” that people take ownership of because they co-created it.  The book describes the use of a Culture Change Assessment Tool (OCAI) within the 7 steps, which provides baseline data on current culture and helps define how this might need to change.  OCAI defines four culture types: Hierarchy, Clan, Adhocracy and Market.

The author shows how culture is the result of both behaviours and beliefs; and states that sustainable change is based on both these elements. People can change their behaviour and/or their beliefs. This reminded me of the following: “It is easier to change the situation than the behaviour; it is easier to change the behaviour than the attitude and it is easier to change the attitude than the person“. This suggests “changing situations” is a good starting point, but Bremer argues that you shouldn’t ignore the value of changing beliefs (how people think and feel).

Chariots of Change:

I’ve written before about my favourite Change Models, one of which describes the range of reactions to change, from Champions to Blockers. Bremer simplifies the five types of people to three:

  • Enthusiasts – they pull the chariot
  • A passive majority – they ride in the chariot
  • Opponents – they are sabotaging the back end of the chariot, or pulling it back

It’s a great analogy and further emphasises my view that you need to devote most of your efforts to those who want to pull the chariot.  Kubler Ross’s Change Cycle also gets a mention.

Some other advice from the book includes:

  • Identify the biggest leverage for change
  • Start small
  • Identify one behaviour that would make a difference if everyone would do it
  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Spend as much time as necessary on reaching consensus about your plan for change and all its details

The book also presents 6Cs of Leadership:

  • Collective purpose: envision it and communicate it
  • Copied by your people: role model the behaviours you want
  • Coach your people: help them give their best
  • Correct your people: respond to undesired behaviours
  • Compliment people: mean what you say and be authentic
  • Care for your people: create a safe place for people to perform and collaborate

Much of this book is about how the OCAI tool can be used in an overall change process, which is fine, but there are plenty of other tools available to help with diagnosing the current situation and helping to shape the future.

Finally, you might want to read my article “Why you don’t need a Culture Change Programme” which argues that culture is an outcome and what you really need to be clear about is what is the organisational performance that you’re trying to achieve.


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