July 1


5 Key Takeaways for Organisational Culture Change

The curious case of organisational culture change and a marmalade sandwich.

Who knew that the Queen kept marmalade sandwiches in her handbag?! If, like us, you were charmed by the Queen’s rather excellent sketch with Paddington Bear as part of her celebration of 70 years as monarch, then you might be one of the millions of people worldwide who have watched one of the Paddington Bear movies. What you might not have been aware of is how succinctly Paddington Bear 2 demonstrates the power of the individual to change culture!

As this film was released in 2017, we hopefully do not need a spoiler alert to tell you that Paddington finds himself in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and sets about living the best life he can. Through a mixture of events and a jailhouse-rock style performance, he soon changes the prison’s entire culture. While not something you would expect outside of the movies, Paddington’s interactions tell us quite a lot about culture, what really drives it, and most importantly, how to change it.

Paddington doesn’t set out to implement a big ‘c’ culture change program – of course he doesn’t – but he does change culture through one conversation at a time. He coaches the prison chef, Mr Knuckles, to make the perfect marmalade sandwich, he ‘calls out’ poor behaviours, brings energy and enthusiasm to daily interactions, and engages prisoners in collective problem-solving. He treats prison staff and inmates equally. Eventually, Paddington has the prison superintendent reading bedtime stories to inmates.

While it is clearly fun to analyse movies, and there are many direct analogies in Paddington that we can think about, culture change is an incredibly important and often difficult task. And it is something that we need to master, as leaders, to create successful, sustainable organisations.

In many contexts, culture can be hard to define. Andrew Bailey, the Governor of the Bank of England, has said that culture is both ‘everywhere and nowhere’. But if you ask the question ‘Can you spot good or bad culture when you see it?’ the answer is usually a resounding ‘yes’.

And the costs can be substantial if organisations don’t pay enough attention to creating the right culture. In an article on culture and the financial services industry, Forbes reported that a good culture reduces the risk of misconduct, noting that banks in the United States and Europe had paid $342 billion in fines from 2009 to 2017 because of conduct-related breaches.

As a leader what can you do to create and sustain the right culture for your organisation? At YES Psychology & Consulting we have found that five foundations can set you on the right path.

  1. Recognise that culture is an asset worth investing in – the right culture can drive productivity and innovation, improve decision making, help manage compliance (and other) risks, and increase employee and customer support.
  2. Have a clear vision of the culture you want to create – to achieve successful culture change, understand where you want to be and what the new culture will look like in practice.
  3. Understand what impacts corporate culture – consider the range of factors that impact culture. Think about your leadership, governance, how your company’s values operate in practice, the way people communicate, how you respond to challenge, how you recruit and what you reward.
  4. Understand that culture change can happen one conversation at a time – there is a role for big culture change initiatives, but don’t underestimate the change that happens through conversation. Everyone can play a role in changing culture – help your employees to understand the power they have to influence culture.
  5. Review your progress at regular points – changing culture is not a linear process; it’s critical to review your progress at regular points and adjust your course as you go.

Want to change course with your own culture? Reach out to YES for support.

Supplied by Dr Lisa Mayocchi, Principal Consultant.


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