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Culture Transformation | Why Do It & How

Our Pathway to Change series kicked off this month with a robust and engaging discussion around culture transformation. We were honored to have Anne from Anne Massaro Consulting & Facilitation - a leadership coach and organizational change and effectiveness strategist - lead this month's event around (1) culture transformation work in support of organizational changes, (2) when and why culture may need to shift and (3) tips for successfully transforming culture. Below are some of our top ah-ha's and insights from the session. We encourage you to view the replay and slides available for our members on our Ohio Chapter library on ACMP Connect for the full discussion and valuable resources (it's definitely worth your time!). 

Not a member? Not a problem. Reach out to to request access.

Ah-ha's & Insights Download

What is culture? Culture is what is rock-solid, therefore very hard to change, in an organization. The embedded values, assumptions, mindsets and behaviors. The way things are done. As a rule, set by senior leaders by their expectations, their own behaviors and their vision for the company and what the culture should be. 

Changing culture means changing how employees think about and approach their work.

Results are driven by behaviors and behaviors are driven by mindsets/thinking. If we want different results, we need to shift behaviors, which requires a shift in mindsets/thinking. 

The goal of culture transformation is to preserve those aspects of a company that make it strong, while shifting that which impedes strategic growth. What are the strengths that advance the growth of the company? What holds it back? 

Rather than the lofty terms "transform" or "transformation", it's helpful to think in terms of a culture "shift" or "shaping". In any culture work, the focus should be on the few critical behaviors that might need to change to move the company on the desired trajectory.

Sage advice: Don't do culture change just to do culture change. Do culture change to drive a strategy. Culture is the result of behaviors and activity.

Can organizational change be successful without culture shaping? Culture is really about the people - what are they thinking, what are they doing, how are they supporting a new strategy. Culture plays a strong role in achieving - or changing - the strategic direction in any organization.

The recommendation is to align a company's culture to their strategy for every organization change initiative. Ask: What cultural traits will drive the new strategy (the change)? What is the current culture and how will it support or hinder change? The goal: List the company's strengths; identify - and limit to - 2-3 critical behaviors/habits that need strengthening to achieve the change. 

When an organization's strengths and weaknesses overlap, focus on the outcomes associated with the cultural elements to identify those that are strengths and should be preserved and those few critical elements that need strengthening/shaping and how.

Rather than focus on "values", it's more effective to ask leaders to think about the behaviors that need to change. What do we really want from our employees? What do they need to be doing in order for us to succeed? This typically organically lands on the values of an organization (bonus!).

And it's important to challenge leaders to clearly identify WHAT and WHY they're changing. Why is the change necessary? What are the benefits? What are the desired results and why they matter? Use business language, not jargon, when articulating.

And while strategic culture shaping should be included in every OCM project (seasoned change practitioners are asking themselves, "why wouldn't it be? . . . I'm already assessing current vs. required behaviors as part of my change management processes/approach"), similar to "values", it might be more practical to not use the label "culture" in your vernacular either. It's unclear what "culture" actually is and doesn't resonate with many leaders. The more meaningful and actionable conversation comes from focusing on required mindsets and behaviors.

For more valuable information - from cultural traits considerations to the 10 top tips for shifting culture amidst OCM projects, including examples of informal/formal organization levers, be sure to view the replay and slides for this event (see link above).

More About Our Guest Speaker | Anne Massaro

It's always interesting to learn how organizational change experts make their way into the change space. We asked Anne to share her career path, as well as personal insights on leading change management now and into the future. Here are her answers.

What was your career path / how did you land in your field/discipline?
For 17 years I worked at The Ohio State University as an internal Organization Development Consultant. In that role, I partnered with colleges and departments on strategic planning, leadership development, and organizational effectiveness issues. Planning change, managing change and executing change were all in my scope. While at Ohio State, I worked with the university's president and senior leadership team to "transform the culture" from one of silo's to one of teams. I was also a co-PI (Private Investigator) on a National Science Foundation grant to retain and advance women scientists at the university. 

I left Ohio State to assume a Director of Learning role at Nationwide Insurance. My team and I designed and delivered training, leadership development, change management and team effectiveness strategies. 

Ohio State recruited me back to lead a change management team for a Workday implementation. I developed strategic approaches for reporting change impacts and mitigation strategies, project communications, stakeholder engagement, change measurement and training.

Most recently, I was part of an SAP implementation project at Cardinal Health where I focused on stakeholder engagement and marketing.

Currently I am an independent contractor, working with clients on a variety of organizational effectiveness issues, all of which include some element of change management.

Is there an analogy you like to use when describing the importance of change management to those outside of the field (e.g., leadership)?
Change management is about giving employees the tools and the desire to grow as their organization grows and develops. Investing in hearts and minds is important for effective change management.

What trends are you seeing in the workforce that you feel will impact change management in the future?
Workforce trends that will impact change management include hybrid work environments, remote leadership, delivering innovative products and services, and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

What additional skills should change practitioners be focused on adding to their resume? 
Creating inclusive workplaces
Challenging organizational inequities
Leading strategic conversations
Designing and delivering virtual learning
Coaching leaders on building effective virtual teams

Additional Resources

As you might expect, there are innumerable resources available on the topic of culture transformation. We've curated a selection below for your convenience. And you might want to check out Larry Senn and Jim Hart's book, Winning Teams - Winning Culture, one of the sources Anne referenced when guiding this month's discussion.

Article: Harvard Business Review, Culture Change That Sticks

Article: Leading a Successful Cultural Transformation at Your Organization

Article: Cultural Transformation - 11 Lessons Learned

Article: 7 Steps to Facilitate a Cultural Transformation  

According to the 2021 Global Culture Survey by PwC Global, of the 3,200 leaders and employees surveyed worldwide, 72% report that culture helps successful change initiatives happen. Bhushan Sethi Joint Global Leader for People and Organization at PwC cites "Organizations with a view of culture as a distinction and source of competitive advantage maintain a sense of community better, respond to customer needs better, innovate with a higher degree of success and deliver better business results." Learn more here.

According to Gallup, your culture only enhances company performance when people understand it and know how to live it out, jut Just 23% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization's values to their work every day. Their cultural transformation framework includes the four key stages provided below. Learn more here.

  1. Define your company culture. Determine and clarify what is and should be the purpose, mission, values and brand of your organization
  2. Align your workforce. Create awareness and shared understanding and belief amongst senior leadership and the workforce at all levels.
  3. Drive Adoption. Incorporate the defined culture into behaviors and work practices, and recalibrate systems, policies and processes.
  4. Sustain your ecosystem. Change company culture take time. Foster and enrich the culture through ongoing monitoring, accountability and reinforcement mechanisms for the long term.


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