This week’s riff: How long does it take to change an organisation’s culture? I know, for instance, that some businesses invest significant sums in long-term, multi-year cultural change programmes

Yet, in my experience, organisational cultures can be changed rapidly – almost instantaneously – without the need for major initiatives or investments.

The most important player in this process is the leader of the organization: the CEO, the Managing Director, the boss! In the end the culture of any organization – its shared values, beliefs and behaviours – directly reflects what the leader believes is acceptable and preferable.

When I worked for Boots, for example, the arrival of Richard Baker as CEO led to a rapid shift in the pace and commercial focus of the organization. Baker’s appointment took some time to lead to growth. But the business felt very different in just a matter of weeks.

Baker took three key actions in his first 90-days at Boots:

  1. He created a leadership team that was fully supportive of his approach. He removed some executives who didn’t ‘get it’ and made some internal and external appointments to key positions.
  2. Baker was very clear about the behaviours he expected from everyone in the organization. He communicated that message directly, widely and consistently. For instance, he sent a memo to his new leadership team setting out six key behaviours he expected, focusing on integrity, pace, togetherness, decisiveness and communication.
  3. He developed and shared stories about those people in the business that were exemplifying the behaviours he was after, particularly the company’s store managers. As Baker told me, when I interviewed him for my book, First & Fast, “I wanted our store managers to know that they were our heroes!”

What actions could you take to rapidly transform the culture of your team or organization without resorting to a major change programme?


Off The Record: Something Changed by Pulp

Where would I be now if we’d never met?

Would I be singing this song to someone else instead?

I don’t know, but like you said

Something changed


© Stuart Cross 2017. All rights reserved.