Updated: Oct 10, 2022
Culture is difficult to define and hard to measure, but without the right one a company cannot succeed.
A common definition for culture as it applies to businesses is:
"Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires."
Peter Drucker's well-known statement, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast," captures the importance of culture extremely well. Culture reinforces what is valuable and acts as filter (i.e. eats up) to keep out what is not valued.
No wonder when it comes to transforming a business it is important to start with culture transformation. But how do you do this? Do you start with changing paradigms and beliefs or with behavior and actions?
When you look at the success of LEAN in transforming businesses, the answer appears to be that you need to do both at the same time.
LEAN is a set of beliefs based on respect for people, although, it is also a set of practices reinforced by tools and methods. However, what sets it apart is its focus on continuous improvement of both processes and people.
LEAN introduces the role of "coach" whose primary function is as an agent for cultural change which may seem surprising to some. However, challenging paradigms and beliefs is the key to LEAN's success. Improvement initiatives become the vehicle not only for cycle time reduction or the elimination of waste, but also for changes to beliefs, biases, and behaviors. Companies that have adopted this approach find that LEAN is a powerful mechanism for transforming culture.
These same principles can and are being used to transform compliance culture to advance quality, safety, environmental and regulatory compliance outcomes.
Almost all compliance programs and standards include the need for continuous improvement. However, this is not the last step after all the compliance gaps have been addressed, common among improvement roadmaps.
Instead, it is the first step and the means of changing culture to realign, reinforce, and sustain the values that really matter.