Sunday, 9 April 2006

Culture Change

In order to set out a view on Culture Change it is necessary to define a view on both culture and change with respect to organisations.


Culture is not just defined by formal things, such as mission statements and a company hierarchy, it is also defined by “soft” factors. Gerry Johnston of Cranfield Business School classified these factors as

  • Rituals and routines
  • Stories and Myths
  • Symbols

These factors themselves help to define how people will intuitively respond in certain situations and reflect the values of an organisation. Stated and documented Values may not reflect well those actions that people adopted particularly in stressful or unfamiliar situations unless these truly reflect the culture of the organisation. Organisational cultures are particularly difficult to change.

Another way of considering the culture of an organisation, from Schein 1997, is to conceive it as consisting of three concentric layers with Values (as above) on the outside, Beliefs in the middle (more specific and are issues which people in the organisation can surface and talk above) and Taken for Granted Assumptions at the core – sometimes referred to as Paradigms (these are the aspects of an organisation that people find difficult to identify and explain).

There is no absolute right or wrong for a corporate culture and the appropriate culture will be in part dictated by the needs of the organisation to deliver a given strategy.

Charles Handy, in Understanding Organisations (1993), characterised culture into four key types.

characterised by

Type of culture

strategy driven by

MO (modus operandi)

suited to deliver

role culture


structures and systems

repetitive tasks

WorkManager process control

task culture


shared values
ad hoc procedures

projects or tasks

MODern Housing Solutions
& Defence Estates

power culture



rapid response

Armed Forces

personal culture


personal creativity
expert power



Management is becoming increasingly focused on the question of managing change. It represents a crucial switch from viewing companies as static entities to seeing them as dynamic organisations in a constant state of flux. Learning to live with change is for some people almost counter-intuitive. Traditional managers have almost always been conservative and, by definition, abhorred change. We need to learn to love change and feel comfortable with our creative intuition – in particular we need to make compassion, harmony and trust the foundation stones of business.

The ability to change per se is an overarching business imperative to survive and succeed and culture change is no different except that it has longer time horizons and will be driven by the strategic and operational needs of an organisation.

Role in effecting and leading culture change


The last 10 years of service delivery that preceded the Housing Prime Contract was characterised by 20+ contracts covering a range of geographic areas and contractual responsibilities. These contracts were performed by subsidiaries from at least 5 construction to services companies that had inherited staff from the Government’s PSA; these staff had been integrated into their parent companies’ corporate culture to a limited extent as contracts had been let for only 3-4 years and staff had been ‘TUPE’d’ from one company to another during the decade. In addition the split of responsibilities between Establishment Works Consultants (EWC), focused on ‘white collar’ compliance and inspections, and Works Service Managers (WSM), focused on enabling delivery and administration of subcontract arrangements, has led to a divergence of values and cultures.

In addition to this we to need consider the interaction of cultures of Defence Estates, the armed forces hierarchy and the Service families themselves.

MODern Housing Solutions’ Values

MODern Housing Solutions has selected 5 key Values to help deliver the new organisation’s strategy and objectives. These are

Openness and Collaboration; by developing our staff and creating an open, rewarding place to work where success is the norm, best practice and lessons learned are shared and where challenge is welcomed.

Mutual Dependency; by collaboration to achieve each others objectives, working with customers and suppliers so that risks and rewards are shared.

Professional, Innovative Delivery; getting it right first time, smarter, better and faster. Constantly searching for and implementing fresh approaches to delivery, best practice in fulfilling our customer’s needs.

Sustainable, profitable growth; Striving for efficiencies in processes and methods, which increase the quality of our service to customers.

These Values do not entail proscriptive procedures in all cases but provide our staff with the blueprint that enables them to know how to behave and perform services in cases where procedures are not written down (those Taken for Granted Assumptions as set out above). The Values are there to drive to the core of changing the organisation’s culture but they need sound training and awareness, strong role models and strong policing of people who are not prepared to adopt the expected norms.

Roles to effect and lead this change

The key roles are to

  • lead the change management process and ensure that all our people understand that it is everything that we do will be measured by how well live to the company’s Values
  • provide an excellent role model for people to understand how to behave in situations - leading by example
  • tackling non-compliance of people, wherever they are in the organisation, by applying the values and then taking appropriate disciplinary action
  • evangelise on the benefits of our values and culture in all our forms of communication; e.g. posters, emails, presentations & newsletters