Culture eats strategy for breakfast -Karen Gill - 2 The Point HR Ltd‘Cultural change’ is the buzzword of the last few years and shows no sign of abating.

It was Peter Drucker’s ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ quote that became synonymous with the drive for cultural change in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing business environment.

And much has been written about what culture is, how it operates and how to recognise when it needs to change.

We hear about the call for action that a company’s leadership team are tasked with for a top down mandate. The new cultural revolution also requires that management defines ‘purpose’, alongside values and behaviours. This is well trodden ground that change specialists will advocate for any  company starting on their journey of cultural change.

But an executive mandate alone isn’t enough to achieve cultural change. Neither is publishing new values and behaviours on your company intranet and website.


Hearts + habits = company culture

Company culture stems directly from the ‘way things are done around here’. Its what is seen, heard, instinctively known and felt by everyone that needs to change.

You can demand compliance but you cannot demand creativity, trust or agility. Therefore, cultural change needs to be witnessed first-hand by employees. It needs to be role modelled with quick wins to demonstrate how new ways of working are going to operate going forward.

Here are three practical initiatives to help you leverage cultural change at your company. 


1. Leader and manager development

Cultural change - leadership team member on phone - Karen Gill - 2 The Point HR Ltd

Do you have a set list of leadership competencies that determine how your managers and leaders are developed, promoted and rewarded? Or perhaps you work instinctively with an unwritten code of requirements that your management team is built on?

Either way, your team’s skills and behaviours will be a crucial part of delivering and role modelling cultural change.

To make a shift in your culture, you will want to review what behaviours you require of your leaders in the new world. For example, does the cultural landscape now require your managers and leaders to show ‘agility’ and ‘innovation’, through being:

  • Quick to see the possibilities of new products?
  • Able to translate and implement processes that improves the customer experience?
  • Proactive at navigating the complexities of company bureaucracy to get something done?

Whatever your focus behaviours are, build them into the recruitment strategy for your leadership team. In addition, bring them into your leadership programme, the appraisal process, talent management and progression routes.

You will also want to review how your existing leaders embody and demonstrate these behaviours on a day to day basis, and thereby showcasing what this cultural change looks like.

Cultural change starts at the very top and is aligned to your company’s strategy. However, you’ll need to be tactical in your approach to ensure that change is driven at a variety of levels throughout the company. Your top priority is ensuring that cultural change is continuous and pervasive.

2. Reward strategy

Cultural change - team awards - female employee clapping - Karen Gill - 2 The Point HR Ltd

How do you reward employees at the moment? Is it through basic pay? How are pay reviews managed? Do you have bonus payments, team bonuses or performance related pay?

All of these mechanisms are opportunities to further embed your new culture. You will have been making decisions to date on pay and rewards based on good performance and now you have a different definition of performance aligned to your culture.

Ok, so not completely different! …But there are some aspects of performance you may want to highlight as prerequisites to receiving monetary reward. Therefore, make sure this is built into your appraisal and salary review process.

Managers are the vehicle to drive this message out and showcase where examples of new skills and behaviours are rewarded.

Company awards for individuals and/or team performance can be a great way to help instil cultural change. They are a public way to express how the culture is changing and rewards those who adopt new behaviours and skills. If you already have awards, check that they speak and drive your new expectations.

3. Performance management

Cultural change - team meeting - Karen Gill - 2 The Point HR Ltd

Performance is happening all day, every day. And performance isn’t just about whether your people are doing their work well. This also includes the informal everyday ways that people interact and communicate, as well as the language they use with team members, peers, customers and the leadership teams.

When wanting to make a cultural change, informal performance management will need to looked at on a day-to-day basis, with a tone of language that fits the bill. You will want to review your communication so that it sends the right message. The focus of team meetings will now need to be aligned to your new strategy.

You’ll want to call out any behaviour that is part of the old guard. For example, team meetings can feel anything but agile and where old behaviour is rife, you can invite your people to reflect on what needs to change. If you let it slide, then momentum can drift and people will easily fall back into old habits. Having examples of what ‘good’ looks like in the new world, can really help people to understand what they practically need to do.

Final note

These are just three of the many ways cultural change needs to be embedded into the everyday working environment. Its tactical, incremental and takes time but here, steady wins the day.

Need help?

If you want advice on cultural change, email me at or call 07773 342084, for a no obligation, initial chat.

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