Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cultural Change without Top Support


Does anyone have any comments or experience about how it is possible to change the culture within a department without support from the top. In fact the very top may actually be part, in no way all of, the cultural problem.

To explain further:

Cultural issues have been identified such as fear of top, lack of innovation, mistrust, low motivation, negativity

Managers and sample of staff are happy to try to work on this

Senior management who will sanction any action are seen to be part of the problem

The question is whether it is possible to effect any form of cultural change without support from the top?

If anyone has any comments to start this discussion I would be very grateful.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a huge challenge in my view - it is near impossible to get any change in culture to stick without top management sponsorship.

There are a few things the managers and sampled staff could do though in the short-term;

- 'beer and pizza' - they don't need top management support to teambuild outside of work, building a team culture that takes them from 'performing' to 'high-performing'
- 'managers' could work together to manage their bosses better; use the politics of the organisation to promote the good ideas and deal with the issues
- come up with business cases to be more innovative, using the staff suggestion scheme if there is one

Whichever way it seems that those people that recognise that things need to change need to help everyone else understand the issues and how they might be dealt with.

12:57 PM  
Blogger hessian said...

Thanks for that Dave, it seems as I feared that it is a very difficult task.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Ben Simonton said...


Having done exactly that, I must say that it is not impossible. Difficult, yes, but certainly doable. You can be an island in an ocean of bad management.

If you are interested, I am willing to help, gratis. Check out my website and contact me.

Best regards, Ben Simonton

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Hessian,

You have a serious challenge ahead of you to be sure. But in my opinion, it can be done.

You should build on the support you have at the grass-roots level. Line level workers / staff are your greatest allies in this endeavor. Work with them to create the change you want to see.

You might be interested in the Dec 11 article on "Smashing the clock".

Good luck.

8:53 PM  
Blogger man@wOrk - I am LoViNG it! said...

To implement a change a support from the top management is one of the important element. A commitment from upper management is quite important to overcome the resistance to change. But, I have experienced that if the team has a faith on its leader then even without the knowledge of the ppl on the top the sand can be changed. Everything revolves around the caliber of the leader and the devotion of its team. Leadership qualities plays an important role in this process.

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I get a bit concerned when I read your comment/question... You say that top management are ready and eager to change, but it seems to be the employees who "hold back" with fear of top/mistrust etc.?

It seems to me that you should definitely involve top managment, but without being their runner or messanger. Perhaps you need to look behind the obvious problem? look into why the employees mistrust the managers etc.?

I would make a very thorough organisational analysis before I did anything here. Maybe next step could be joint involvement - both managers and employees at the same time (in the same session)...

Kind regards
Change management consultant

3:40 PM  
Blogger Bindu said...

Wonderful discussions..
Thought provoking and thanks for all your comments which took me more into change management..

7:25 AM  
Blogger Mike Morrison said...

while I know that culture change like this can be initiated in this way (indeed it happened when you bring any new manager in) the challenge is to have the consistent culture across the organization.
BUT - and it is a big one...
who wants the change?
Incremental change when individuals enter the organization and adapt the micro culture in their part of the organisation is one thing, but without the commitment and desire of the owners or key stake holders do we have a right to change the culture?

Often while a culture may APPEAR to be a distractor - it may well be the factor that is keeping the organization afloat.

I feel that too many of us have read the books on empowerment and have started to believe the hype... some of the most successful organisations are autocratic (look at Jack Welch and GE) - who is to say that a style is effective or ineffective - sure it needs to be consistent and that people employed 'buyin' or accept the culture.

So can you make bottom up change - yes
should we make bottom up change - No!

I have a summary of some valuable change management tools available at
Change Management Models

8:51 AM  

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