July 2015: Fast Cultural Change - The new book by Martina
Organizational change is still an issue of high importance for organizations. However, many change initiatives still fail. These failures are often attributed to a lack of consideration of the existing organizational culture and the changes this may have to undertake. In addition, organizations often seem to regard the work on organizational culture as something to be undertaken during times of well-being and as a kind of incentive to keep the engagement of the employees on a high level.
Even if organizations recognise that it is important to work on the organizational culture during change processes, they often are discouraged to do so, as the literature often states that cultural changes require at least need seven years or longer.
So, organizations work on strategic changes, and so forth, and work on cultural aspects if at all marginal. However, this cannot be the solution, and organizations in this way give away important leverage for successful and lasting change.
The question of how organizational culture change could be developed in such a way that it does not take the above-mentioned length of time (and without ignoring the complex challenge that this special issue is asking for), the author undertook exploratory research in a medium-sized organization that was undergoing major strategic changes. In addition to this strategic change, this organization also had to face a deep cultural change.
It is well-documented in the literature that the position top management takes with respect to cultural change is of high importance for successful change. At the same time, until recently the role of middle management seems to have lacked attention. Middle management is mainly discussed in the literature in the context of strategic change. In the context of organizational culture, research with a middle management perspective still seems to be missing.
An action research strategy was adopted. The findings suggested that organizational culture change occurred in the time span of two years and that middle management played a crucial part within this process. Several roles could be allocated the role ‘cultural role model’ as the most important one. In addition, the roles middle management play as part of strategic changes according to various literatures were in the main confirmed. The results were used to develop a model of integrating middle managers actively into the change process and using their creative potential. Middle management served as a catalyst on the cultural change process.
Since the initial research was conducted, the author has followed her model in various other organizations, not just medium-sized ones. These included a management culture change conducted in an insurance company with more than ten thousand employees.