I HAD A REALLY INTERESTING CONVERSATION with a sometime client the other day. They were in the process of reviewing their year and were quite proud of the progress they had made in regards to their Diversity program. This client had done everything right, from gaining the active backing of senior management to measuring it on a balanced scorecard to which everyone was accountable. It was picture perfect and I was very proud of his work. As we talked about the coming year he was a little concerned because the next thing the senior leaders wanted to work on was a ‘culture change’ that would change the culture to support ‘inclusion’. My client was concerned because he felt the culture already supported inclusion and because he knows a true ‘culture change’ can take years and years – an attention span few organizations have. I’ll share what I told him because I think it might help others who are thinking about or being told to get involved in a ‘culture change’.
Wait! What? How is that possible? Because company cultures are created and re-created every day by the actions that employees take. Because culture in its truest sense is also a verb (see my Doctoral Dissertation for more info about that) and so every action we take within our companies can be considered culturing.
That means that if you want to change a culture take a different action. All it takes is one person to do something different and the culture is changed. Then another person takes a different action and it is further changed. Yes, it may take you a little while to get everyone to take different actions, but from the very first one the culture is changed forever.
Cultures are living and breathing things, just like us humans.
So to go back to my client, I pointed out to him that all of those data points on the balanced scorecard represented changes in the culture. And all of them were leading to more and mindful inclusion. He just needed to show senior management the progression and introduce his plans for the coming year and he was on his way.
And his further plans around ‘inclusion’ were to have conversations and training for anyone making decisions about employees. That would be managers and supervisors, human resources and even finance employees. And the training would help them further change their behaviors and actions to further move the culture along the continuum.
Because cultures change all the time. Sometimes not for the better, but they do change. And that is both a danger and an opportunity. We change our cultures every day and we need to keep the focus on always moving towards productive behaviors that change our cultures for the better.