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Louis V. Gerstner, former CEO of IBM once said, “Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game.”

I came across this quote in an INSEAD article by Martin Roll, which was about how leaders who are looking to drive change need to be mindful of the culture of their organizations because this is crucial to successful change, in a make-or-break kind of way.

So what is culture? Roll comments that it is something that develops over time. Something that binds people together. An aggregation of the mind-set and beliefs of an organization’s employees. Something that plays an important role in ensuring the company stays on course and does not veer off path.

Roll outlines three principles that underlie organizations most successful in driving and implementing change through embracing culture.

First, they understand global differences in culture. This is obviously more relevant for global companies, but also for start-ups with global aspirations. Any big picture change strategy that’s being developed at the top will need to be adapted to suit each local culture and market.

Second, there is a need to understand what culture means to different people, and different groups within their organization. This is typically more of a challenge for well-established companies. Change leaders need to be thinking about how organizational changes might affect employees and employee groups differently.

Finally, change initiatives need to be aligned with organizational culture, and ultimately, strategy needs to be aligned with culture. This will reduce the disruptive nature of any change.

At the end of the day, culture is about the people – and taking them on any journey of change. If you want your company (and any changes on the horizon) to succeed, it starts with your people. If they’re motivated and inspired, and if they have a sense of purpose and understand where the organization is going, then they’re more likely to do a good job.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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