4 Tips For Preventing Culture Change Failure

For the past two decades, you’ve probably heard: 70% of organizational change efforts fail. It’s a daunting statistic for any organization considering a cultural transformation. Changing your culture requires a substantial investment of time and energy, and you certainly don’t want the result to be a defeat. However, a successful transformation—one where the change is sustainable—can enrich employee engagement and increase customer loyalty.

Organizations that decide to adopt a customer focus can experience greater teamwork and improved efficiencies. This is especially true if your organization takes a top-down/bottom-up approach to the culture change process. In order to prevent reverting to old methodologies, all of your employees—from your frontline staff to senior management—should be included in the change process.

Here are four key reasons why including all employees in your transformation process will increase your chances of a successful—and sustainable—culture change:

1) Role Models

Senior executives must lead the culture transformation parade. They need to be strong advocates of the change in order to garner employee confidence and support. Diana Oreck, Former Vice President of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, advises “leadership to share the vision of change and paint the picture of the future with every employee in order to enable execution.” If your senior leaders do not participate and promote the transformation process, then your efforts for change will most likely fail.

2) Accountability

Leadership buy-in is needed to create accountability. If you’re asking employees to change, but senior leaders are not supporting and reinforcing new procedures, your staff will be tempted to slip back into old methods. Management needs to monitor and value new processes in order to facilitate change. They need to clearly communicate their expectations and demonstrate that there will be follow-through and accountability. Behavior change expert and author, Kerry Patterson, notes that: “When a leader effectively holds the team accountable—he or she reduces cost overruns by 64 percent, reduces schedule delays by 60 percent, and improves quality and functionality by 66 percent.” There is no question accountability will influence the outcome of your change process.

3) Purpose

Employees need to be included in the transformation process in order for them to see their greater purpose and their impact on the organization. Without understanding the importance of their contribution and how it fits into the overall vision of the company, employees have little incentive to embrace change. Susan Heathfield, a Human Resources expert, warns, “If you leave employees behind, at any stage of the process, you open the door in your change management process for misunderstanding, resistance, and hurt.” She also recommends, “Even if employees cannot affect the overall decision about change, involve each employee in meaningful decisions about their work unit and their work.” Buy-in from your employees is critical for your success. Change won’t happen unless your employees consent to it.

4) Teamwork

When management and frontline staff work together to change the culture, there is more opportunity for teamwork, partnership, and mutual support. You eliminate an “us” and “them” attitude by replacing it with a spirit of unity. An atmosphere of teamwork has the potential to disintegrate workplace silos—which can be fatal to change initiatives if left intact. “A siloed organization cannot act quickly on opportunities that arise in a fast-paced business landscape,” according to Dr. John Kotter, author and Harvard Professor, “nor is it able to make productive decisions about how to change in order to seize these opportunities.”

At The Ritz-Carlton, Service Value 4 begins, “I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors …” Every employee at your organization—from the top-down and the bottom-up—must understand and take responsibility for his or her part in helping your organization achieve success. Once each employee accepts and demonstrates their role in the change process, you can work together to execute a sustainable culture transformation. 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.