Managing Culture Change - mirror of Management Success
Culture - Good or bad, you always have one
Let us make one thing clear: you always have a culture in your organization. You may not like it but you have
one. It may just have grown over the years, all by itself, maybe simply because people were busy doing other
things. That underlines what I said elsewhere on this website: most things that come by itself are things that you
do not want. Sadness comes by itself, you do not have to do anything, you will get it anyway. If you want a party
you will have to work at it.
Culture just may sneak in over a long period; it just grows slowly and nobody may even notice. It is like the
story about the frogs in hot water but I am not sure if that story is true and I am not to find out. Fact is that,
if you want a positive culture you will have to work at it.
The principle of future characteristics
The past performance of an organization or unit tends to foreshadow its future
Helping companies with a not so good culture?
In my consulting work, I also had to deal with companies that have grown into a culture that was far from good.
I remember two chemical companies that actually came to us - I was working for a consulting company then - because
they had problems with the authorities; one because of environmental issues, the other because of the high accident
Such situations where a negative culture developed over a long period of time are difficult for the consultant
to work with. Maybe even impossible, unless the management of the company is set to change and willing to go all
the way. But what do you do if half the managers do not show up for a meeting that was planned well in advance? I
am not sure what happened to the company with the environmental problems but the one with the high accident rate
does not exist the way it did. It was broken up and parts were sold. The remaining company that survives until
today still had to report fatal accidents in 2009 and was subject to losing its operating license because of
environmental problems. At the end of 2012 the company filed for bankruptcy. In 1995 I did an evaluation of
in-company processes to manage the areas of safety, environment and quality using the 17-step rating system; their
overall score was about 30%. Is there a message? Possibly this: "If you can't manage safety (or quality or
environment) you can't manage!?
The 17-step process - a guide to positive culture change
To obtain a culture that you want, the principle is simple: involve people form the start of setting up a
management system. Let them know what you wnat to achieve, why, when and how and how they will be involved in the
What you have to do and the way you have to do it
is incredibly simple. Whether you are willing
to do it, that's another matter.
Peter Drucker (1909 – 2005) – management consultant, educator and author
The 17-step process that I mention on my website
and which is further detailed in my book lays out the route via which you would be able to work at culture
change in your organization. In that case the management system - which development is the core of the 17-step
process - may be directed at "a better culture". That may be a bit vague. I would suggest to select an objective
that would be more identifiable. I consider culture as an result, a "byproduct" of what you do and it really does
not matter too much which objective you select but a good one may be one close to people and their working
environment. So safety and health - in a broad sense - may be a good choice and it would not be too difficult to
include quality and environmental aspects in it as these all relate to the work that people do, the products and
equipment they work with and the environment in which they do their work.
The 17-step process includes the steps and criteria for culture change and should be a good tool in the hands of
a knowledgeable consultant; it could be the basis for an agreement between the consultant and the client looking
As the 17-step process invites people from all levels to participate in the development and execution of the
management system towards success, it is culture change from the top down and from the bottom up.
Not a psychologist
I am not a psychologist; I have been educated as a chemical and industrial engineer.
I like to believe that behavior comes from attitude and that you can, within certain margins, influence attitude
by influencing behavior. I also like to believe that the combined behavior of people reflect the culture of the
Working as a safety management consultant, behavior has had my interest for a long time and in 2000 I came very
close to setting up myself as a safe behavior consultant which, after some considerations, commercial and
otherwise, I decided not to do.
The 17-step process provides plenty of opportunities to create an environment for influencing behavior and thus
The principle of
Motivation to accomplish
results tends to increase as people are given opportunity to participate in matters affecting
There are some items you may want to look at which I developed for some reason or another:
Behavior measurement - an article I wrote for the book “Safety Performance Measurement”, European Process Safety Centre in
Behavior program - the layout of a presentation that I once gave at the start of a
safety related behavior and culture change process in a
multiple location organization. This followed an investigation within that organization which showed "behavior" as
one of the main accident causes.
How to make rules is a guide to make rules, procedures or work
instructions with a high acceptance and compliance rate.
The principle of deviation from normal behaviour
The more a rule or procedure deviates from normal behaviour, the more effort is required to
Loss Control Maturity Profile - a helpful instrument
which I used in management training. Purpose of this profile was to get opinions of those who were in a position to
influence the safety culture in their organization. You can replace the term "loss control" to fit your specific
needs. I also used to put value factors on the columns ranging for 1 at the left "Uncertainty" to 5 on the right
"Certainty". This gave me the opportunity to get an average idea of how a group managers would think about the
subject. If you want, you can repeat this process at various managerial/supervisory levels to see what the
differences in opinion are.
Use of the maturity profile will help starting the discussion that is necessary to start the process to change
in which the 17-step process would show the way.
Opinion Surveys - will also help to obtain a picture of how people
think about an aspect of the organization. The examples provided through the link are related to safety management
and there are three levels: (i) top- and middle management, (ii) supervision, and (iii) operational
Culture element of safety management audit system. I used to work with the
ISRS (International Safety Rating System) and predecessors between 1975 and 1991. The document provided was
an attempt to included some culture related issues in the audit system.