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Culture Change is a Journey

I've been enjoying the recent series on CNN featuring Stanley Tucci touring Italy, recalling food and memories from his childhood. The experiences depicted are steeped in tradition and local culture, filmed in the mid-pandemic summer with documentary film access to restaurants, farms, and master chefs in each region. The culture of a region is derived and developed over time. Elements are a result of physical location (on the sea, in the mountains), what resources are available (volcanic soil amenable to tomato farming), and what challenges must be overcome (lack of ingredients over the winter, history of avoiding pirates). Traditions are shared through stories and experiences; teaching the next generation how to store tomatoes for the winter, the traditional way to make pizza dough, the process of tearing basil to enhance aroma and flavor. The documentary series itself shares these stories, experiences, and resulting cultures with a broad audience - all the way to my kitchen in Indiana. The culture of an organization is derived over time as well, based in shared stories and experiences. The origination story, including the values of the founders provides the foundation of the culture. How each leader behaves and is rewarded becomes the folklore for approved and desired behavior. The celebrations in good time and the reactions to challenges contribute to the culture, handed down from employee to employee. Organizational culture can be a distinct advantage, a strength to be marketed and leveraged to ensure long term success. However, as we've seen in recent news stories, established culture can be a liability. A necessary culture change is not about declaring a new sense of being and commensurate replacement of key leaders! Driving change across an organization requires architecture, a deliberate framework of experiences aligned with the new behaviors, refreshed values, desired outcomes. Experiences may include new leaders, defined decision frameworks and governance, improved rewards for new capabilities. New processes and technology may be necessary to reinforce the structure and strategy. Culture change is a journey which must be defined, developed and delivered to be successful.

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