You’ve gone through a lot of trouble to make your culture the best it can be. You’d like to think you’ve been successful. But how do you really know?
Choose objectivity over subjectivity. True culture change requires radical behavior shifts over a period of several months or years. The new behaviors have to be ingrained in the culture so that most of your leaders and employees are demonstrating them readily and consistently. Although you can usually sense when this is happening, it is always helpful to rely on facts rather than intuition—especially if your change management program cost a lot of money!
Get help from an established tool. Dan S. Cohen, the author of Make It Stick: Embedding Change in Organizational Culture, offers an easy and effective way to assess the uptake of culture change initiatives. His tool, appropriately called the "Make It Stick Diagnostic," determines the extent to which new behavior has been adopted, and as a result, the probability that a new culture is emerging.
The tool presents 15 statements including:
- “As a member of this organization, I believe that the new behaviors will stay, even if key leaders involved in the effort leave.”
- “As a member of this organization, I believe that new practices resulting from the change effort are superior to old ones.”
- “As a member of this organization, I agree that leadership spends a lot of time promoting new attitudes and behaviors.”
- “As a member of this organization, I see my peers exhibiting new behaviors.”
- “As a member of this organization, I see new behavior becoming a part of the way we operate.”
To use the tool, make sure everyone is clear on the change behaviors you want to measure (e.g., “making stellar customer service our No. 1 priority”). Then, issue the questionnaire to people whose perspective you desire. Respondents should assign a value of 1 to 6 to each statement, with 1 indicating that they strongly disagree with the statement, and 6 indicating that they strongly agree with the statement.” After all of the questionnaires have been returned to you, tally the results. The farther they are from the maximum score possible, the more work you need to do to get your changes to stick.
Learn from healthcare leaders. Some of the greatest strides in culture change measurement have been made in the healthcare field. I recently read about the Artifacts of Culture Change, an online diagnostic tool developed for public use by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Edu-Catering LLP. Designed to assist in individual eldercare providers’ culture change implementation and ongoing sustainability efforts, the administration process involves assembling a Culture Change Leadership Team and having members talk through the online questions in small groups. The groups eventually come back together for an all-hands discussion that establishes an immediate action plan and future change goals.
Realize that change takes time. Cohen suggests that after uncovering objective results of positive change, you publicize them—taking advantage of any opportunity to link well-known organizational successes to the change initiative. And don’t be discouraged if your change efforts aren’t quite there yet. True culture evolution takes a great deal of patience and persistence, and by continuing to spotlight what’s working and what still needs to be done, you will eventually get where you want to be.
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Alexandra Levit is a former nationally-syndicated business and workplace columnist for The Wall Street Journal and the author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success. Money magazine’s Online Career Expert of the Year, she regularly speaks at organizations and conferences on issues facing modern employees.