Many organisations around the world have been held hostage by their own toxic cultures that have trapped them into consistent poor performance. Leaders and management knows about it but they seem to have technical incapacity to transform their culture. When no one manages the culture it changes and become toxic and once it is in this state it is a virus that weakens the whole organisational system.

Organisations with weak cultures are characterised by firefighting management styles, high cost of waste where lots of money are channeled to problem solving initiatives instead of the core mandate. It is very important to know that if you do not manage the culture it manages you because culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and supper! The fundamental questions I am addressing today is what causes these unproductive culture and what management can do to manage their organisational culture.

These are mysterious questions that most organisations cannot satisfactorily answer without resorting to blame games instead of addressing the root causes. Culture is shaped by many factors like organisational practices, procedures and policies, values, attitude and mindset of both management and employees and the management system organisations uses. This is why it is vital to analyse culture from employees' lens and organisational lens perspectives.

In pursuant to change our corporate cultures, it is clear that the biggest challenge we are facing is our inability to unlearn old habits, old patterns of thinking, old behaviour, old methods, old strategies, old models and old tools so that we create a room to learn new habits, new patterns of thinking, new behaviour, new methods, new strategies, new models and new tools that are fundamental in attaining a state of excellence.

It is very complex to innovate and transform a culture but it is simple if you adopt best practices in transforming it and this introduces us to the culture transformation strategy. This model is built on the PDCA methodology and it has four (4) systematic phases. The first planning phase requires the organisation to conduct a 360 degree assessment of their current culture and analyse the results to determine current undesired state using culture assessment tool and maturity metrics.

The results will indicate critical areas that create unproductive culture and based on these results the organisation need to use Pareto 20/80 tool to identify at least three serious issues of concern that need to be addressed.

These identified issues should be further analysed to identify the exact root causes using tools such as fishbone tool, 5 Whys, , cultural web, Hosted Cultural dimension matrix, affinity diagram and fault tree analysis tool. These can further be analysed using cultural iceberg tool where the overt iceberg cultural dimesions will be compared against the covert cultural outcomes which may be known or unknown by the organisation.

Moreover, the organisation need to develop a transformation plan on how the identified cultural issues will be addressed and at this stage it is advisable to have a clear direction on how the anticipated culture will look like. Some of the results driven modern cultures that are common in high performing organisations which can be adopted as alternative culture are excellence culture, agile culture, digital culture and Total Quality Management (TQM) culture. Furthermore, the second phase of implementing the culture improvement plan requires the organisation to establish a cross functional team of people with relevant qualities.

At this stage change management matrix tool should be used to determine if all the change enablers have been addressed before starting the transformation process. The most effective implementation tools to be used at this stage include the logic model, force field analysis matrix, Gantt chart and failure mode effect analysis tool. These are the best implementation practices tool that are able to effectively implement any improvement plans.

The third phase requires the team to monitor and evaluate the emerging culture against measurable key indicators using monitoring and evaluation matrix. This is a phase where the team is able to examine if the expected cultural targets are obtained and the efficacy of the new culture in achieving organisational objectives and goals.

Any improvement gaps identified should be closed immediately using process decision chart to implement a contingency plan. Lastly the last phase requires the organisation to conduct thorough assessment and find out if the desired cultural state have been attained or there is still a room for improvement. Once the new culture has emerged it need to be stabilised using reinforcement strategies.

The Author is a member of African Excellence Forum, Holds Master of Science Degree in Strategic Management and is a Certified Manager of Quality and Organisational Excellence from America Society for Quality. Six Sigma Greenbelt, ISO 9001:2015 Certified. Contact: 72211182, Website: Email: [email protected] LinkedIn: Veron Mosalakatane