5 Keys to Culture Change that 70% of Organizations Overlook

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5 Keys to Culture Change that 70% of Organizations Overlook


The future of work is arriving. Amidst rapid change, technological advancements, and artificial intelligence, organizations today need to compete in order to attract and retain talent, and remain productive. 


How do we design a more "human", future-ready organization?

With culture, of course. For most organizations, this means strategic culture change. Right, change.


How many of us are loving that word lately? Is it any better when your partner brings it up?


Not surprisingly, 70% of culture change fails long term. At Delivering Happiness, I have been a Happiness Consultant for 10 years, and I've seen leaders with the best intentions, yet they were unprepared to support the change. Once they realize what it takes we see a high rate of sustainable change. The biggest reason we see it succeed or fail? Having to commit time, money, and the catalyst of it all -- committing to personal change.


One study sums up why most organizations fail to change their culture. It’s not poor strategy or lack of investment, contrary to popular belief. It’s failure to change human habits.


If we pull back the covers, we see organizational culture change is really all about individual change, and when it’s aligned and intentional, it adds up to collective positive change. Look deeper at where that begins, and often ends, which is leaderships’ ability to commit to change themselves, first and foremost.


So how can leaders commit to change, in order to drive a successful, strategically developed culture change?


1. start with me


You will fail to change others, if you do not change yourself. Realize it’s all about an individual's lifestyle and creating new habits at work and at home. How can you inspire others, if you are not inspired yourself? How can you ask others to change if you show it’s not important by failing to change yourself?


Those messages will read as insincere and you will lose your adapters [as well as credibility and trust, which is easy to loose and hard to reclaim]. More importantly, creating a culture of happiness is about finding your own happiness. This takes reflection and self-awareness. In short, commit to personal growth. Doing the work on yourself first is how to keep yourself inspired, and bring others with you. By doing so, you will also create more authentic happiness for yourself. This is how your employees and your managers will know it’s real, in order make the scary, risky leap to change themselves.


"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself." -Rumi


2. over-communicate [in two ways]

Many organizations define a great new vision for their culture, purpose, or values, but then fail to communicate it to everyone else. They need to say it in every way possible, speaking each group’s language, so everyone understands it.


Use multiple channels as well, and think about all the ways to reach every group in your organization, from your tech department to your field and service reps. However, great communication is not one-way. The other side of the coin is active listening. What are the challenges people are having with understanding the change? What are the fears? Where is information being heard, and not?


Enlist a culture team to help. Then communicate back what you hear. People need to know it’s safe to take the risk and put the energy into changing. It sends the message that they are seen and heard. It builds psychological safety.


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” - George Bernard Shaw


3. be a leader by being a supporter

Leaders take initiative to support new ideas, take risks, and so forth, but in culture change we want to start a movement. That begins with the first follower and support is essential.


Being a strong leader in change means empowering others to drive the change. To explore the change themselves. Giving them space to fail and learn. Perhaps most importantly, showing support for new behaviors and ideas. Show up, model send the most powerful message you support, by being there.


Push co-ownership early and often, and then show up to support the energy and ideas. Support your culture team and managers who are closer to the change consistently and persistently. That part is very essential. 


"The quality of a leader cannot be judged by the answers they give, but by the questions they ask." - Simon Sinek


4. small actions to big impact

We want to see big change and be inspired to create a whole new culture! However, we fail to realize we humans don't change that quickly, and living off inspiration alone is not sustainable. 


If we want sustainable change that lasts and shapes our organization, we have to treat it like a human habit. That’s what it really is-- many small human habits adding up to big change, together. So, it’s really all about small changes.


Think of this like a tiller on a sailboat. If you change it 1 degree, it’s barely noticeable in the short term, but in the long run, you end up someplace totally different. All in all, we can dream big, but act small. If we try to change everything, we end up changing nothing in the long run.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Chinese proverb


5. celebrate small wins relentlessly

Small actions add up to big impact. The key is momentum and this comes from a delicate sense of progress which can build resilience and create more momentum, or else, it fades fast. Celebrate relentlessly to show people we’re on the right track, because it’s very easy to get lost, distracted, or go down the wrong path.


Send the message to believers and non-believers alike that we’re on the right path... this is the way...and by golly we’re making it! Because failure is going to happen. We’ll get off on the wrong path, fall in a ditch, forget where we’re going eventually. Celebrating the wins along the way builds resilience, social cohesion, and sets us back on the right path with new energy to learn and adapt. So add up all the positive actions. If they happen and the radar does not blip, the momentum is lost, and so is your success at change.


"Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior." - Brene Brown


How much could a happier culture save your business?


About the Author

Sunny Grosso

Currently the Culture Chief at DH, Sunny’s mission is to inspire others to live BIG by being true to themselves and following their purpose. She is passionate about realizing this through positive work cultures. Through her diverse journey Sunny has been a wellness researcher, saké trainer, ultra-runner, one of the world’s first happiness coaches and, finally, a global culture consultant.

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