“Consciousness is only possible through change; change is only possible through movement.”
― Aldous Huxley, 

Today, “cultural transformation” (or change, adaptation, improvement, culture management) is the topic on the table in practically all organizations and what most leaders are concerned about these days. We understood that the value of new technologies is replicable in the medium term, and that the strength or weakness of a culture to sustain a new strategy, although more complex to acquire, is also much more durable and significant.

Most leaders looked at us weird when we started talking about this at Axialent about fifteen years ago. They would look at us with a condescending-looking smile before saying, “Culture? No, that’s not tangible. It’s something soft. We need to sell more, period,” or “We just need to implement this new system, we need someone to come in and turn it on.” It wouldn’t take long for them to call us back and tell us that, for some unknown reason, after pressing “on”, no one was doing what the system was asking for.

As if, from one day to the next and without explanation, a factory put in dozens of safety devices (helmets, signs to know where to go, height equipment). What are the chances that someone will use them if that is the only thing that changes? Well, if there is a culture that considers those who take care of themselves as weak, no matter how many new devices are available, no one is going to use them! A few years ago, not too many, this was not called “culture”, but simply “people don’t understand”.

It’s not difficult to guess what happened to those stories: culture became the new corporate mantra, and it is enough to see how the ranking of companies around the world evolved to realize its influence. Some succeeded because they took this variable seriously; others did it even with resistance (generating a much higher emotional and financial cost); and some did not even get to tell it.

Today, on the other hand, there is almost no one in a leadership position, who doesn’t ask themselves how to solve the great problem of individual and collective transformation. When I get those requests I always perceive the internal dilemma between why they should set themselves up to this challenge when, up to now, they have been extremely successful. Or their personal dilemma of doing it while asking me silently, but screaming with their eyes, that those who have to change are the others who do not do what they should.

Precisely, one of the great difficulties of these times of extremely high levels of disruption is to be able to recognize that the successful habits of the past will not necessarily serve us in the future. I experience this myself in my own organization. No matter how much I know about these issues, when I am at the center of the stage, my biases also play tricks on me. Very few can express it clearly without hurting our own ego. The dilemma is how to recognize that what we created and did may have been perfect to get us here, but will not be so perfect for the future we dream of. And that now, to create the most effective culture for the future, we also need to transform ourselves. So strong is that inertia, that some even convince themselves that it is better not to have that conversation, to keep moving forward, and to retire in time. Otherwise, something will forcefully pull them back.

Powerful question to ask yourself:

What old accomplishment do I need to detach from today in order to achieve a better version of myself that will allow me to be effective in the present time?

Make change happen:

The next time you intend to replicate a past accomplishment remember to ask yourself some questions beforehand, both regarding the more tangible accomplishment and the intangible that stuck in the culture of your organization and team:

– What did you learn from the previous experience?

– What did you achieve?

– What was the setting and resources?

– What did you fail to achieve?

– Where did you fail?

– How can you do better?

– What things do you take for granted now because of your previous experience?

– What do you think you can learn from the new experience?

This previous reflection will allow you to be more aware of all the factors and let go of the anchored learnings that, perhaps on this occasion, are more of a burden than a help.

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