Q: My company's culture is one that is satisfied with the status quo. We are holding our own but I feel we are missing opportunities to grow and expand. How can I motivate good people to think outside of the box?
A: Changing the culture of an organization is one of the hardest tasks an owner or manager can undertake. It is human nature to resist change and cling to that which is familiar and comfortable.
The adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" only works if you are satisfied with current results and future prospects. Nothing stays the same forever and unless you are open to change, your competition will probably leave you in the dust.
For change to happen, it is common that an unusual event must occur that shakes you out of your state of complacency. Typically, this is the result of the loss of a major account or product innovation that changes the competitive landscape.
A classic example is the Eastman Kodak Co. who had a virtual monopoly on the film industry. Even though they were aware and had the technology to go digital, they clung to film due to the high profit margins. By the time they embraced the new digital technology it was too late in the game.
Culture change starts at the top. The owner or manager must articulate clearly his or her vision and reasons for change. It is important that employees have a clear understanding as it is they who will carry out the directives of management.
Managers are wise to solicit input from their subordinates. In this manner the employee is made to feel instrumental in the success of the business.
Develop a project management plan with specific tasks and timelines for completion. Establish benchmarks that everyone can understand and buy into. As each benchmark is reached, give praise to those who made it possible. Developing a team mentality is essential to the success of your business plan.
Lou Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM once said: "Culture is not just one aspect of the game, it is the game."
Gray Poehler is a volunteer with SCORE Naples. Their counselors can assist and offer advice concerning management issues facing your small business. Counseling is free to all U.S. citizens and legal aliens. To register call 239-430-0081 or visit http://naples.score.org/mentors.
If you would like an answer to your question, fill out the form at http://naples.score.org/mentoring/request/0/8977. A counselor will contact you within 48 hours. Please include your name, email address and a phone number.