An enterprise’s culture is often a source of pride and differentiation. It can also be a hurdle when implementing business process improvement projects. In my travels and visits with clients all over the world, a common theme is emerging – “we are a unique organization and have a very distinct culture – organizational change practices from other organizational don’t apply to us.” The specifics include statements like:
- “We are a government organization with long-time employees.”
- “We are a privately owned company with creativity at our core.”
- “We are a medium-sized business with US-only employees and growing rapidly.”
- “We are a large global manufacturing firm that outsources all our back office functions and fosters innovation locally.”
- “We are a non-profit organization operating in 33 countries with a passion for helping others.”
What follows is an explanation of why practices from other organizations are not of interest and won’t work in this instance. This approach is risky, as generally organizations aren’t very good at organizational change and communication to begin with. Let’s look at this from another angle. Imagine if the medical profession held these same beliefs. A visit to a doctor could go something like this:
Patient: “I am having problems with my left knee. When I run I feel a pain on the outside. Is there something that I can do to stop the pain?”
Doctor: “Well you do realize that you are a 38 year-old female, who runs, is a project manager and lives in Boulder, Colorado at a high altitude. In addition, no two human bodies are put together exactly the same, which makes it hard for me to use examples of others with knee pain to diagnose what is wrong with your knee.”
This would be the last time you visit this doctor! Many organizations hold onto the belief that they are unique, missing the opportunities to learn from leading practices of others. It is important to understand the nuances of each culture and use these to guide the development of the organizational change plan that leverages a litany of great techniques and pitfalls from other enterprises. Successful organization change requires both. I believe in using frameworks that are culturally sensitive while leveraging leading practices in successful organizational change. Don’t handicap your change efforts from the start – understand the body of available techniques and leverage those that will resonate with your culture.
Getting over the fact your organization is unique and can’t learn from others is likely your first organizational change challenge!