All Articles Leadership Management “You can’t change corporate culture.” Yes, you can

“You can’t change corporate culture.” Yes, you can

3 min read


Organizations come to The Ken Blanchard Cos. to have us help them make their organizations better. “Better” might mean more effective leadership, higher performance, improved customer experiences, greater net profit or a more cooperative, positive work environment.

Organizations come to us because they see missed opportunities in their operations. They might see less-than-inspiring leadership happening each day. They might see less-than-inspired employees every day. They have gaps they want to close, and they know Blanchard can help them do that.

After a thorough assessment of a client’s current operation and clarification of needs, we are able to present solutions that we’re confident will address their gaps. Some of those solutions involve skills training, some involve personal coaching, and some involve proactive culture refinement — culture change.

Some clients readily embrace our solutions. Some don’t embrace our solutions quite so quickly.

When considering culture change, more than a few of the senior leaders I’ve engaged with say, “You can’t change corporate culture.” I’m not surprised at this belief. Blanchard’s experience indicates that most senior leaders, in their careers, have not lived through successful culture change. Even fewer have led successful culture change.

When I hear this belief, I ask a question: “Can you change how an organization performs?” These leaders say, “Absolutely!” By changing how individuals perform, leaders change how the organization performs.

Leaders change the way individuals perform by:

  • Setting clear performance goals.
  • Directing, supporting, coaching and delegating where needed.
  • Measuring progress and accomplishment.
  • Celebrating progress and accomplishment.

These activities, done consistently with a service mindset, often lead to increased performance, higher-quality, happier customers and growing profit.

Changing your organization’s culture is no different from changing how your organization performs. It requires intentional definition of, communication of and accountability for your company’s:

  • Purpose: The reason you in business.
  • Deliverables: Your promise of high-quality products and services.
  • Culture: Values you stand for and live by daily with stakeholders, peers and customers.

Change what you pay attention to

Corporate culture is the most important driver of what happens in organizations, and senior leaders are the most important driver of their organization’s corporate culture.

To change an organization’s culture, all leaders must change how they spend their time and what they communicate and reinforce on a daily basis. Their focus shifts from “great performance” to “great performance WITH great citizenship.”

Just as performance metrics help one understand how well productivity is going, values metrics are created to help one understand how healthy the organization’s culture is.

Leaders can change their organization’s culture by:

  • Setting clear values standards, in the form of behaviorally defined values.
  • Directing, supporting, coaching and delegating as required.
  • Measuring values progress and demonstration.
  • Celebrating values progress and demonstration.

Creating clear performance standards enables leaders to proactively manage performance. Creating clear values standards enables leaders to proactively manage their desired culture.

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, an author and a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Cos. He co-authored Blanchard’s book “Leading at a Higher Level,” Blanchard’s award-winning culture-change process and the book “#POSITIVITY AT WORK Tweet.” Edmonds also authored the book “#CORPORATE CULTURE Tweet.” Subscribe to his leadership and culture blog at Driving Results Through Culture.