Culture is a consistent way of thinking and doing things. When that way has become deeply ingrained in an organization, it may no longer entail thought. It's just the way things are done. This can be good and or bad depending on whether the culture aligns with reality.
Definition number 5 from Merriam-Webster covers culture as the broad concept:
a : the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
b : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time <popular culture> <southern culture>
c : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization <a corporate culture focused on the bottom line>
d : the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic <studying the effect of computers on print culture><changing the culture of materialism will take time — Peggy O'Mara>
"Cultural change" is a term we use to describe any attempt to either start doing something in a certain way, or to stop doing something in a certain way. It also refers to an attempt to change attitudes, though the ultimate goal is always to start or stop a behavior or outcome.
This is an article about an attitude that may help while trying to affect cultural change.
If you have an interest in reading what I write at all, you're willful and tenacious and you tend to find your own way of doing things. And it's not because you're trying to be different just to stand out: you choose the way that makes the most sense to you based on the integration of everything you think you know, plus a few things you want to take out for a test drive.
Trying to convince other people to even try to do things a different way can be difficult. Getting them to do it consistently is even harder. And when an organization is suffering because the cultural practices have gone out of sync with the facts of reality, cultural change may be the difference between thriving and just getting by.
Given the slow pace of change, you might feel frustrated. And that's where this attitude will be most needed. The mindset I want to share comes from Jocko Willink: Cultural change is not a single battle... it's a campaign.
What is a campaign? It's serial. It's organized. It has an objective or goal.
It's not one battle, it's a number of battles. "Battle after battle." And you're not going to win some of those battles.
Seeing cultural change as a campaign gives you a place to stand when you take a step back and look at the whole situation when life hands you frustration or you lose a battle. In a campaign you can regroup. You can simplify. You can remind yourself that the objective is worthy and important. And then you can continue.
And when you step back, you can remember that you are an example of the change you want to see in this [group, organization, country, world, whatever]. You can find the strength to keep doing what you think is right no matter how few people seem to be climbing aboard. You can summon your faith to trust people to notice and emulate the things which make sense and create positive change. (More Jocko: "if you're doing the right things for the right reasons, that will spread.")
And when you step back, you can forget about blame and remember to lead. And often the indirect way is the best because the direct often runs you right into a person's resistance. Don't tell people how to be unless they ask. And if they do, keep it short: "This is what I do."
You can be the change you want to see. You can act in the right way for the right reasons. You can ask questions that lead people to clearer and simpler thinking.
And you can step back and see that it's a sustained campaign. The change will be slow and deep. And whether or not it succeeds, it will worthwhile because you will have lived your values.
- Culture | Definition of Culture by Merriam-Webster
- Jocko Podcast 22 - with Echo Charles | Mind Control - 1:28:05 – How to change the culture of a company.