Is the culture ready for the proposed change?

This post on the Harvard Business Review’s site points out how important it is to pay attention to culture when you’re trying to figure out if a change will catch or not.

The article talks about a job applicant who was pursuing a new position for a Chief Accountability Officer (CAO) with the company.  The applicaant had been offered the position —

“The next step was a return visit, after which he’d decide to accept the offer. Sean had already learned a lot about the company’s businesses and some things about the organization. His priority now was culture and how the new position might fit: “I asked people, ‘What are you excited about? What are you proud of? Who are your close friends in the company? How does the group function together?'” Sean learned things like who the heroes were, what made them successful, and what his biggest challenges and opportunities would be in the job. The different people he met with were learning from his questions. It was almost like he already worked there, and they were jointly determining how to make the new role successful.

Surprisingly, Sean turned down the offer. The new role was a misfit in the company’s culture.

As he learned more about the company, Sean questioned how he’d be viewed as the first CAO in a company where everyone else focused on bottom-line results. It was a highly performance-driven environment with lots of business units. Corporate staffs were secondary.

“I asked how they’d keep score on me, how they’d really know I was making a difference,” he said. “We never got to satisfactory answers to that question. They weren’t hiding anything. This CAO position was a new one, and they didn’t really know.”

Part of determining if the change can be successful is to understand if the culture is ready for it.  And, if the new element doesn’t fit into the existing culture, then the big picture of the change has to include the culture change that will allow the new element to be successful.  Not impossible, just needs to be consciously acknowledged and planned along with everything else!

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