The Right Time To Challenge The Status Quo

There comes a time in the development cycle of an organisation that crystallising moment when a leader recognises that “the way we do things around here” presents an existential challenge.

Particularly for large organisations in established industry segments, enterprise malaise and talent stagnation could ensue if those who helped build the company’s culture hold steadfast to outdated business process. The status quo and more of the same may, in fact, be holding you back.

This may be revealed in the immediate shoot-down of innovative, perhaps even disruptive ideas.

It could be manifest in other leaders’ vocal opposition to change, particularly when it comes to moving high performers out of their business units for the good of others. Perhaps it will be made transparent by group dynamics all too eager to dismiss alternative strategies in favour of those the group created.

We all know the benefits of size, scale and a history of doing good work in the markets we serve.

But the crucial thing for global business leaders to recognise is that the culture, strategy and people that once enabled your growth may now be so intractable as to limit its future potential.

Longtime employees who are so deeply committed to the company’s defining culture may become blind to the repercussions when industry or competitive dynamics suggest a serious culture change is required to pave the way for improved performance.

The secret to overcoming this, for them, may be to start looking for the grey matters instead of seeing their role – and the organisational culture to which they feel so vested – in such absolutes of black and white.

This is, indeed, one of today’s biggest challenges for global business leaders. To see what’s holding your organisation back – no matter how long it has served the common good – you may be required to confront some deeply engrained cultural norms and shift them or do away with them to achieve better business results.

If it were easy to recognise the cracks in the foundation before the crisis, then everyone would be looking for them. It is uniquely the leader’s calling, however, to ask why the enterprise and its people are doing the things they doing, and to bring the open mind required to challenge your own team when it fails to see its inability to change with the times.

When corporate culture impedes performance and profitability, the results will show in the company’s financials. It will be laid bare when the organisation fails to keep pace with competitors, or when profits begin to shrink.

The best corporate culture can help you drive and accelerate growth. But if it’s too dated and supported by people who themselves are incapable of or threatened by change itself, culture can dampen the most promising of ideas and people. Worse yet, the cultural status quo can lull an unsuspecting leader into thinking he or she can deliver on big strategic goals when in fact they cannot.

So the next time someone says, ‘That’s not how we do things around here,” go ahead and ask yourself: “Is our culture hurting or helping us and what can I do about it?”

Copyright © TRANSEARCH International 2014


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