Common Challenges You Might Face When Changing Culture

July 28, 2023 Jamie Notter

Our upcoming book is titled Culture Change Made Easy, and we do believe that it’s easier than most people think (particularly when you can see your culture patterns). That said, we recognize that changing culture takes work, and it’s not without challenges. Here are some common challenges we see with our clients.

Sustaining momentum. Both in designing the change and implementing the change, everyone involved inside your organization already has a day job, so there is always the risk that the culture work gets pushed to the back burner and stalls. This is probably the biggest challenge to effective culture change. While you don’t have to change it overnight, spreading it out too far will cause it to stop entirely.

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Appropriate boldness. Changing culture can feel a bit scary to the people who are leading it—what if it doesn’t work? What if some people leave? What if there is push-back? As a result, we sometimes see clients being hesitant to push too hard and the result is a culture change plan that is a bit too safe, and it fails to have enough impact.

Obsessing over the numbers. While we obviously value our culture assessment and the data that are generated, it’s not meant to “prove” anything or provide clear, binary answers. It’s meant to generate the right conversations that lead to the right change, and when clients get too focused on the numbers, they lose sight of the insights that lead to effective change.

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Lack of flexibility during implementation. As you design and implement the culture change, your environment will be constantly changing, so what you thought was going to be a great culture change play may turn out to be a bust, and you have to be able to adjust quickly. We address this in our implementation coaching that reviews priorities every three months, but it can still be a challenge.

If you’re embarking on culture change and are concerned about any of these areas, set up a time to chat about it!

Jamie Notter

Jamie is a co-founder and culture strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders create amazing workplace cultures that drive greater performance and impact. He brings thirty years of experience to his work designing and managing culture, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is the co-author of four popular business books, including the award-winning Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement, and his fall 2023 release, Culture Change Made Easy. He holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.