Myth busting #3/5: A self-contained culture training programme will do the job

Aart Willem de Wolf Published at

As we reach the midway point in this 5-part series busting myths around company culture, and the challenge of trying to steer it in the direction you choose, it’s time to take a fresh look at training. When the outcome you’re looking for is so important, the ‘safe and speedy’ option of teaching it in a controlled classroom environment is instinctively tempting. But as you’ll read below, that approach could be your biggest downfall.

Company Culture Myth #3/5: A self-contained culture training programme will do the job
Cultural change is a big deal, with a lot to take on board. Maybe it’s no surprise that so many business leaders believe it needs to be taught in a classroom before letting employees loose to apply their learnings in practice. After all, around 80% of human behaviours have a tangible impact on execution of business processes. Who wants to risk getting that wrong?

The trouble is, culture isn’t a matter of passing a test and then you’re good to go. Culture is an organic set of shared behaviours and beliefs that only become visible when people actually work together in their daily processes. It can manifest and shift in different ways, so needs to be instilled and continually guided in real-life situations. If ever there was a case for learning on-the-job, this is it.

For example, a company that wants to improve its production efficiency might conclude that having a more accountable, fact-driven culture is the solution. As tempting as lecturing employees on the principles might seem, the only way this will ever be achieved is through establishing tangible connections between behaviours and outcomes in the real world. An ongoing practice whereby individuals can clearly see the impact of their actions in day-to-day practicalities.

We know a company who did this by redesigning their daily performance meetings to make all the participants (from the various departments) feel more directly involved in manufacturing processes. They swapped out reporting a distanced assumptive overview for sharing detailed data insights into the causes of lost production time. This resulted in all individuals gaining proper understanding of the consequences of their actions. And over the course of three months, there was a measurable change in behaviour which led to improved production performance. A perfect example of culture change in action!

In conclusion:

Culture will only become established through practical application in business processes which tangibly improve performance.

Putting it all together

If you haven’t yet read myths #1 and #2, and missed my introduction to why company culture is like herding cats, you can catch up via my previous posts Company Culture Myth #1 and Company Culture Myth #2. Myth #4 will follow soon in my next post. Better still, get the full set of five in one go by downloading R&G’s white paper Company culture: Mastering the Art of Herding Cats.

 Aart Willem de Wolf is Managing Partner for R&G Global Consultants in The Netherlands

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