Transforming an organizational culture is not like a pre-packaged meal, cooked in the microwave and served to your followers. Many consultancy-driven initiatives approach culture in this way. Many fail.
Instead, it is a handcrafted recipe, deliberately prepared utilizing the unique flavors already present in the organization, marinated before cooking slowly over a low heat.
Not only does this require following Drucker’s advice and working with what you have, it also requires patience and courage in addition to people-centered leadership.
It also requires a key ingredient to begin the marination: a catalyst.
The spark of change
They can come from anywhere.
Although you can hire one from the outside, you likely already have one within your organization. They can be an employee on a crew, a department manager, or even a senior manager. Their job function, title, or place within the organizational hierarchy is not important. What is important is who they are and what they do within their assigned role.
The catalyst is driven by something more than the usual paychecks and benefits. They are not driven by career development per se. Instead, they are motivated by their own unique philosophy or religion on life, one that informs and guides them in all that they do. They have a North Star (hopefully like you) and they follow it. They are not evangelists, preaching their North Star to others with the hope of converting others. Instead, they channel their passion into what they do, allowing their actions to speak for them.
The catalyst initiates the transformation you seek, primarily through modeling. These are the kinds of people a leader points to and says “that’s an example of what I am saying.” When asked, many of them coach and teach others on how they do what they do. They are the go-to’s when the going gets tough, the people you can count on to see it through, no matter the challenge. Their consistency, passion, and attention to detail in their tasks and roles are evident to everyone around them. No matter their position, one often labels them as a “professional”.
The catalyst is the ambassador for the change you wish to see. They understand change from personal experience, a transformation over the course of their lives which has resulted in who they are today. By virtue of being who they are, the catalyst draws out others like him or her, empowering them with the courage and willingness to follow their own North Star in all that they do. They live for something beyond themselves, drawing others who desire to do the same.
The catalyst is a chemical reaction, one that overcomes resistance, facilitates understanding, brokers that understanding between individuals, and even mediates conflicts over understanding. No cultural transformation begins without one.
When empowered by leadership, their efforts start the chain reaction which results in a new cultural core, one that embodies the transformation you desire. From this marination, the meal (your new organizational culture) begins to cook, allowing the flavor to work its way throughout the entire dish. Cultural transformation becomes inevitable.
Are you a people-centered person with the courage to change your culture? Are you wondering where to start?
First, find a catalyst.