Brainzooming participated in a new business presentation with a group of other companies. We were proposing a change initiative for a multi-agency department within a city government. As our in-person presentation drew to a close, the review team asked about each of our experiences with comparable culture changes.

My answer, rather than detailing the specifics of a particular initiative, focused on important lessons I learned during a significant change in organizational culture.

How Culture Change Works

What lessons did I share on how culture change works? There were three lessons.

Culture Change works when:

#1. It Comes from the Top of the Organization

An organization may have a groundswell for change from within the ranks. In a business setting, though, you need senior leadership to be on board with a changing culture. That can involve:

#2. Emotions and Facts Co-exist

While the need for the change may emerge from objective evidence, facts alone will not win the day when changing a culture. The facts MUST be intertwined with emotional appeals. Facts may get people's brains engaged, but these initiatives are as much about the heart as they are about the mind.

#3. It’s Ongoing, Not an Event

Even though you may have a big launch event to signal that there is a different direction for doing things, real change doesn't happen at a point in time. It's an ongoing series of daily events - some huge, some barely noticeable - that disrupt the status quo, demonstrate a new way of doing things, and solidify the newness on an ongoing basis. If you think you're done with culture change, I have news for you: your work is not only not done, your culture is probably rolling back to what it was before.

That is my best advice on how culture change works. – Mike Brown

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