workplace culture

Corporate leaders tell us change is the biggest challenge they’re facing today. Why? Constant change makes it difficult to remain relevant and to create value for customers.

Humans tend to hate change. Whether it’s introducing a state-of-the-art computer program or transitioning a company to a wholly new and innovative way of working, our brains literally create chemical pain that says, please stop all that new work.

So, instead of enjoying the challenges that come with trying something new, we resist.

Our brains are elastic and can, in fact, adapt, but it’s not a smooth, easy or comfortable process. It’s tough enough for the people at the top to think about reworking processes and policies; imagine the difficulties when you’re talking about altering the culture of an entire workplace.

Companies have cultures, whether they know it or not. That culture is an amalgam of core values, beliefs, and behaviors that pertain to the business and the way it is conducted. Employees live out that culture every day.

Employees live out a company's culture every day. ~Andie Simon Click To Tweet

Getting employees on board when the corporate culture has to evolve can be a challenge. However, if company leaders provide purpose to the changes by showing how they’ll improve business and create stability after the transition, they have a better shot at a quicker buy-in.

To do that, though, they have to get out of the office. They have to witness first-hand how customers use the product or service, and they have to interact with employees.

3 tools to take control of change

I suggest that leaders adopt an “anthropologist’s tool kit” and do these three things to aid them in changing the culture of their organization. Leaders need to:

  • Conduct observational research. 

Consider shadowing clients and employees as they use a product or service. Find out what their challenges are, and what trends they see that have them concerned or excited.

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. ~Zora Neale Hurston, author

  • Find customers’ pain points.

What happens when someone contacts the company’s customer service center? What works and what doesn’t? Are emails and phone calls answered? What happens when people visit the website? If responses are delayed or unsatisfactory, find out why.

Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain. ~Robert Gary Lee, comic

  • Use culture probes and storytelling.

What are the stories customers and employees could tell if they had a company leader’s ear? Put away any defensiveness and just listen.

Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal. ~Dr. Howard Gardner, professor Harvard University

I advise companies to expand the research role past the executive level. Allow team leaders and others to be a part of the company’s new story and encourage them to visualize how they can play new roles in an emerging business environment.

By doing that, they’ll be the energy behind your innovation.

About today’s guest contributor, Andi Simon, Ph.D. Andi Simon, a corporate anthropologist, professor, award-winning author, trainer, and speaker, is the founder and CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants. She has appeared on “Good Morning America” and has been featured in the Washington Post, Business Week, Forbes, and on Bloomberg Radio.

Image credit before quote: Pixabay