Organizations confront opportunities to change on a regular basis. Whether it is an update to a long-held policy or procedure, an improvement in how leaders provide feedback to others or an increase on the part of managers to speak truth to power, one retort is heard more often than any other.
This most common theme of resistance sounds something like: “before we can make the change, we must first change the culture”. Essentially, we hear back that “our hands are tied” and that we are powerless to change because “the culture simply won’t support it”.
My take on this is that culture is actually an outcome of the behaviors in play at any given time in an organization. It is simply a reflection of how we behave with one another, inside and outside of the organization.
As such, the only way to change culture is to actually make the changes in behavior that define the culture. This turns the most common form of resistance on its head. Waiting for the culture to change, before we do the hard work of making or accepting change, is simply circular in its logic.
The longer we put off making important changes, the longer our existing culture remains the same.
Our courage to make the necessary changes is the only way to drive different results, and, in the end, is the only way culture ever changes.