Change always happens in the context of organizational culture, or “the way we do things around here.” Much of resistance comes from the change being at odds with both the spoken and unspoken rules about how the organization usually operates.
The organization’s culture can impact your assumptions about how you can implement change successfully. This is especially true when you work for the same organization that you are also trying to change, because the same cultural forces that are acting on everyone else are also acting on you.
When implementing change, there are three options for how to address the issue of culture:
- Work within it. You can assume the system is the way it is, and that the only way – or the easiest way – to be successful is to follow the rules. Employees who have been with the company for a while might tend to work within the culture because they have learned to navigate it.
- Work against it. You can treat your project as the exception to the rule. Ignore the culture and the usual way of getting things done. You might do this anyway if you are totally oblivious to the culture, perhaps as a new employee; or you might be aware of the culture and make the decision that it doesn’t apply to this situation.
- Change it. You can use your project as an opportunity to raise awareness of the culture. Identify the behaviors, decisions, policies, and activities that contribute to it. Explore the implications of the culture on the organization and on your project. Work to change the culture, to provide an environment in which your initiative can succeed.
For the initiative(s) you are working on now, what is your main approach to dealing with culture?