A 10-Step Program For Changing Culture

When the time comes to change the culture at an organization — which can sometimes be an “all-purpose scapegoat for all of its failings” — a leader’s behavior can have the biggest impact.

According to Maxine Harris and Michael B. O’Leary, authors of the new book, “Tales from a Reluctant CEO: Lessons for Nonprofit and Startup Leaders,” there are 10 levers that can reinforce or change an organization’s culture.

There are five primary mechanisms by which leaders can make change, many through their own visible behavior, and five secondary culture-embedding mechanisms, which have a more indirect effect on culture.

    The authors identified the five primary culture-embedding mechanisms as:

  • What leaders pay attention to, measure, and control;
  • How leaders’ react to crises and other critical incidents;
  • How leaders role model, train, and mentor;
  • What gets rewarded, symbolizes status, and leads to promotion; and,
  • What criteria are used for recruitment, selection, and socialization?
    The five secondary mechanisms are:

  • Formal statements of philosophy, mission, vision, values;
  • Physical design of the work environments, buildings, etc.;
  • Work flow and decision-making processes;
  • Stories, myths, and slogans that describe key people and events; and,
  • Rituals, ceremonies, and celebrations.