Written for TakeON! by Paul Stewart of ON-Brand Partners
Three disaffected employees set out to undermine a company’s culture change process, only to see leaders rally against them and pave the road to success.
Some years ago we worked with a major organisation on a customer experience transformation strategy. Three months after launch all seemed well. Wishing to test the sentiment across the 5,000 employees, the company posted a simple poll on its intranet. Within five hours a mind-blowing 3,200 votes had been registered. But the results were shocking. Over 82% of votes were ‘strongly against’ the new initiative.
Executives were startled because that was in complete contrast to what they had been hearing. Smelling a rat, IT was instructed to undertake an investigation. It turned out that 2,600 votes came from three computer terminals in the same department! Three individuals, disillusioned with their manager, had spent the entire time since the poll went live voting, pushing refresh, and voting again.
As word spread, it ignited an uprising. The group of 200 specially chosen programme champions rallied together to talk about how they should combat this threat. They agreed to increase their efforts to make the transformation even more successful.
Over the following weeks they and senior leaders led conversations with teams about the purpose of the strategy, highlighting the positive impacts it was having, and creating opportunities for everyone to get involved. They made greater efforts to ‘walk the talk’ and to hold each other accountable.
Another six months on, the key metrics – employee and customer engagement, customer retention, employee turnover, error rates, and profitability - had improved significantly. However, what employees were saying gave the best insight.
“We have experienced renewed friendship, closeness and bonding, as we get to know each other more, especially our qualities and strengths. We work together better as a joined-up team. I can confidently say that this has been the most effective and influential business-wide initiative for the last 123 years!”
Culture change involves complex human behaviours. Many times exactly what happens cannot be predicted. That’s part of the excitement. There is no ‘fail-proof’ formula. That’s why developing competencies such as “dealing with ambiguity’, ‘leading change’, and ‘creating an influencing strategy’ at all levels of management can be crucial.
1. Find out more about ‘Dealing with Ambiguity’, ‘Leading Change’, ‘Creating an Influencing Strategy’ and others in TakeON!
2. Check out this article ‘The Art and Science of Transforming Cultures’