Change company culture with a movement, not a mandate

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StrawberryFrog chairman provides nine ways for companies to change their internal culture.

Changing your own behavior is challenging enough. But how do you positively change the behavior of thousands of people within your company? In short: you listen, learn and empathize while applying the latest in behavioral science. Only then can you develop a brand purpose, and activate a movement inside your organization to truly transform your company’s ingrained culture and habits.

You lead a company. You face obstacles among your employees to live and deliver your vision. Sometimes there may be substantial obstacles to overcome. You want your enthusiasm for taking things to the next level to be a passion that is shared across all the levels of your organization. You know that this is something that cannot be enforced, especially not as a mandate from the C-suite. You want to change habits and company mindset… But how?

Activating purpose by cultural movement

Since we founded StrawberryFrog as the world’s first movement marketing company (more of which here) we’ve proven that the most significant change often comes through societal movements. In the process, we pushed the expertise we used to grow brands with consumers to transform organizational culture and change employee's behaviours. We use the principles of societal movements to mobilize team mates and associates. This has evolved to a tool called movement strategy and movement inside.

Using both, we’ve helped some of the world’s leading companies – P&G, Emirates Airlines, Lifebridge Health, SunTrust Bank, Google and Mahindra – to change internal behavior and culture for better performance.

Movement Inside

While StrawberryFrog’s movement inside approach continues to develop as it evolves with the latest findings in the behavioural sciences, we’ve already learned many valuable lessons. Here are some of them.

  1. Company culture defined by a movement: A movement inside your organization will define your corporate culture and shape and change the habits and behaviours of your employees. The right cultural movement will attract and retain talent. It will focus them, inspire peak performance, and make the difference in how innovative, collaborative and effective your company is.
  2. Design for participation: Invite your employees into the movement for change. Mandates from the top don't work, are ignored or, worse, lead to employees leaving the firm. Rather than a mandate, movement strategy should focus on participation of employees in fighting against something or for something, a cause that they can rally around. This generates trust, motivation, creativity and passion among the most resilient employees.
  3. Be crystal clear about the change you want to make. It can’t be vague – you need to indicate the mindset and behavioural changes you would like to see. Often these initaitves fail not because people are unwilling, but because they don’t understand what to do.
  4. Be realistically bold: If you’re not bold, people won’t engage. But organizations -- particularly large ones -- can absorb only so much change at a time without losing focus on BAU.
  5. Find your champions and enroll them – Not all employees will get on-board immediately, but you’ll find there are a few enthusiastic ones who can be your ambassadors for change. They can talk up and explain the new direction to their fellow employees.
  6. Skip the break room posters and create experiences that matter. Change initiatives that are just about employees communications are doomed to fail. Yes, you’ll need to communicate to employees, but more importantly you’ll need to engage them experientially.
  7. Be the change you want to see. Lead by example, exemplify the change yourself.
  8. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Persevere. This is a long slog, and it can’t be a one-off effort followed by silence or inactivity. Remind them often and reinforce what it is you want to see become different.
  9. Measure your progress. Benchmark attitudes and behavior with a survey before your initiative starts. And after, three, six or nine months in, re-survey to see how you’re doing, and course correct if necessary.

Viva la Movement.

Scott Goodson is the founder and chairman of StrawberryFrog.

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