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Four Ways CLOs Can Change Their Company’s Culture

 -  5/7/12

Improving a given aspect of an organization’s performance frequently comes down to changing a company’s culture, which is easier said than done. Here’s how to get started.

Often in approaching an organizational issue, the conclusion a learning and development professional comes to is that it comes down to culture. In order for a company to truly change itself with respect to a given aspect of performance —ethics, for example — it has to embed its intentions in its culture to succeed. The conventional wisdom is that has to happen from the top-down; from the C-suite down through the ranks.

But how does a CLO change a company’s culture? That’s easier said than done. According to Joseph Grenny, co-chairman of VitalSmarts, a corporate training and organizational development consultancy, this is because it hasn’t been approached correctly.

“We think it needs to be top-down and driven by leaders, when in fact that’s just a recipe for resistance,” Grenny said. Grenny prescribes four critical competencies for building a high performing organizational culture: self-directed change; intellectual honesty; 360-degree accountability; and influential leadership.

Self-Directed Change

Grenny identified execution and innovation as the primary abilities a CLO seeks to foster in an organization. “The basis of that — the core ingredient — is self-directed change,” he said. “If you have a capacity in your organization for individuals to examine where the organization is headed and create self-directed change to be able to examine their own habits, alter them as the occasion requires, and align with the direction of the organization and their own professional aspirations, that really is what unleashes individual potential. Then the leader’s job is just to guide that self-direction.”

Intellectual Honesty

According to Grenny, a significant barrier to effective organizational culture is created when employees don’t feel free or able to speak up about bad decisions or mistakes that their company may be making. “If they are; if they can be intellectually honest; if they can talk about the elephant in the room, that’s the process by which self-correction happens in an organization,” he said. “When dissent gets stifled, then our capacity to execute well diminishes because we can’t talk about what’s wrong with the way we’re executing and our capacity to innovate disappears, because innovation is fundamentally a function of spirited debate. Intellectual honesty means you’re getting my full honest view of reality and what ought be done in the organization.”

Article Keywords:   culture  


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