The difficulty of changing a culture

One of the reasons that culture change is often so difficult is that we see it as a change of behaviour without understanding that it always involves the capacity to change our habits. And this is itself no trivial matter.

The capacity to change habits requires more than a list of new behaviours to take up, a set of new processes, or even a compelling story about the change that’s needed and what it might bring about – although each of these can surely help.

We also have to learn:

  • how to loosen our grip on our familiar way of being, acting and speaking
  • how to tolerate anxiety (because this is how it almost always feels to let go of a way of being we’ve become familiar with)
  • how to deal with our own inner criticism and deflation when things don’t go the way we’re expecting
  • how to practice new skills, and stay dedicated to our practice over time
  • how to listen, speak, and make powerful requests (so that we can address interruptions and breakdowns to our intentions as they arise)

All of these are developmental tasks that support us in moving away from our habitual reactivity and into the kind of openness and responsiveness that’s required whenever we want to bring about a lasting change.

It’s time we helped ourselves by taking the developmental aspect of organisational change seriously. As long as we see it as just a shift in behaviour, and ignore the shift in our collective development and skilfulness that’s also required, we’re going to keep on adding difficulty to what’s quite difficult enough already.

Photo Credit: Orin Zebest via Compfight cc

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