Harvard Business Review: Cultural Change That Sticks

Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original expectations. Reasons vary but, more often than not, those who lead the initiatives are unable to avoid or overcome cultural resistance, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of customer.”

In the July/August 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review, Jon Katzenbach, Ilona Steffen, and Caroline Kronley share their thoughts about how to complete a “culture change that sticks.” Here is a brief introduction to this brilliant article.
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When properly harnessed, an organization’s culture can be a true differentiator that no competitor can duplicate. However, as pressures on companies build, leaders often become frustrated with the comparatively slow pace of culture evolution. In the rush to implement new strategies and make performance improvements, the legacy culture—employees’ ingrained ways of doing things—can seem like the greatest barrier to change. Unfortunately, most well-intended efforts to “change the culture” fizzle out, fail, or backfire.
Here’s the good news: There is an alternative.
Drawing on recent research and real examples, the article’s authors present a new approach that leverages what is strongest in an organization’s existing culture, providing a practical road map for real, substantive evolution in employees’ ways of behaving by focusing on a few critical shifts. This approach has been tested and proven in client engagements across a range of regions and industries.
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To download a pdf and read the complete article, please click here.

Jon R. Katzenbach is a senior vice president in the New York office of Booz & Company and the leader of the Katzenbach Center, which focuses on the development and application of innovative ideas for organizational culture and change. He is the co-author, with Douglas K. Smith, of The Wisdom of Teams (Harvard Business School Press, 1993) and, more recently, Leading Outside the Lines: How to Mobilize the Informal Organization, Energize Your Team, and Get Better Results (Jossey-Bass, 2010), co-authored with Zia Khan. Ilona Steffen is a director in the Zurich office of Booz & Company, and Caroline Kronley is a former senior associate in the firm’s New York office.

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