Culture University

Positively impacting society on a global scale through culture awareness, education and action.

CEO Transitions: From Shared Accountability to Culture Change Success

By Daniel Forrester and James Williams

There is nothing more exciting than the moment a new leader is announced. Employees Google her/his name, wondering what she/he will do to change the organization. A new leader brings new ideas. She/he offers a new vision. They may even help the organization imagine better ways to remain relevant and thrive in the future.

CEOs transition into organizations thousands of times each year across for- and not-for-profit sectors. How often new CEOs arrive, their tenure, and the rate at which they succeed in achieving a new vision versus failing to meet board expectations have been well-reported and even studied in academia—the results are stunning.

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Ask 10 random people in your organization “Who is our customer?” How many different answers would you get? Ideally, the answer is the same. There is only one customer. Your strategy, resources and goals and objectives must be aligned around a singularly defined customer.

Lack of customer clarity creates organizational challenges that extend far beyond customer service. A lack of clarity and alignment about the customer leads to confusion and uncertainty about critical organizational priorities. A consistent definition of customer can break down silos, unlock lost productivity, and empower your people.

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Edward Stack, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods one of the largest United States retailers took a bold stand to no longer sell assault rifles. In addition, they will only sell guns to those 21 years and older. At a time when the country is divided over second amendment rights, gun control, and public safety, why would a company like Dick’s make such a decision? Was it the discovery that Nikolas Cruz the 19-year-old responsible for the Florida attack had purchased a gun from Dick’s previously? Was it because of the millennials protesting gun violence? What are the cultural implications? These answers can be found by looking at how the environment influences decision-making, public opinion, leadership, and culture.

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There are several approaches to changing cultural norms in an organization, however, the actual transformation comes from its people doing something unique, adopting new behaviors, changing the way they solve problems, and the way they communicate and interact with each other.

To change something, we must understand the way it’s created, formed and influenced. Here are three powerful drivers of culture: behaviors, techniques, and symbols.

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A while ago, I was counseling a senior executive of a government bureau who was two years into shaping his agency to be more customer and results-centered. He rebuilt his 200-person group, propelled key actions, coached his staff on changing mindsets, and settled on some challenging personnel decisions. At about the same time these efforts were beginning to reveal positive outcomes, a new governor was named. His main goal? To shape my client’s agency to be more customer- and results-centered! What could this senior leader say? "That’s what we’re already doing" would have appeared defensive and resistant. He basically sat passively as his new manager laid out plans for stirring things up.

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Charting For Change In The Workplace

By Daniel Lock

Change management can be tedious and challenging, but it is a well-trodden path. Many analysts have created useful models to manage change in different respects; this article touches upon Kurt Lewin’s famous change model and presents insights about actionable changes.

Kurt Lewin was a German-American psychologist who served as a professor in US universities before becoming a director at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In the 1940s, Lewin proposed his Change Management Model that presented how organizations adapt and deal with change.

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