Can You Do What’s Necessary To Bring About Rapid Culture Change?

This is going to be a short post. There is a qualitative difference between gradually shaping a culture and rapidly changing a culture in fundamental ways. To see a previous post on how to shape an organization culture, click here.

Rapid culture change requires that certain people leave the organization — particularly those in leadership positions. It’s unpleasant, it’s painful, it’s regrettable — but it’s reality. This applies to leaders at every level. If a particular leader cannot or will not enthusiastically support the desired new culture, he or she must be replaced. To achieve rapid culture change we can’t be patient.

These departing leaders are, in a sense, casualties of war. We should treat them with respect and dignity, but we need to transition them out of the organization. Then, of course, we need to identify new leaders who embrace the desired culture.

Recently I’ve observed situations in which a new CEO is brought in to rapidly change a culture, but he or she is prevented from replacing the leaders. That’s a non-starter. That CEO is being set up for failure.

Rapid culture change is painful and confusing for all stakeholders. We always experience unanticipated consequences. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.” Working through these types of challenges requires a great deal of intestinal fortitude from the leader. And without the authority to replace people, nobody can bring about rapid, fundamental culture change.

Thanks for reading. As always, I’m interested in your thoughts.

Larry Sternberg

One thought on “Can You Do What’s Necessary To Bring About Rapid Culture Change?

  1. As I recently found out, if you can’t make changes in the culture rapidly, then maybe you should get out or live in frustration that you can’t make a difference. I don’t live in a world of “picking up a check”. I have to feel that I am making the organization better.


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