In recent years companies have been undergoing ever more overlapping and interconnected transformations, while increasing market volatility has been making these transformations more urgent, complex, and important. To illustrate just how hard it is: almost 70% of change initiatives fail, mainly due to a lack of buy-in and engagement from employees.

In this context, having a customised change management approach (alongside traditional project management) has become a key success factor in ensuring a smooth and sustainable transition of people's mind-sets. But even before delving into changing management on a given project, it is crucial to take a step back and look closer at the corporate culture in place within the firm.

Are the behaviours of employees aligned with the values of the firm? Is the actual corporate culture inside attuned to externally communicated values? How could the organisation's values be more consistent with employee behaviour and thus fan the business strategy?

These are just some of the questions that may arise in a transformation, and which must be addressed to help employees identify with the firm and positively contribute to the success of a change program.

Zoom in on corporate culture

Corporate culture has been rising on the agenda of human resources executives. Indeed, the development of company culture was, on average, the sixth main focus (out of 17 topics) of the HR departments of the 86 financial institutions that participated in KPMG's Remuneration Survey (2015 edition). In addition, a 2016 KPMG study shows that business leaders are emphasising the importance of business culture more and more, and link it to the image of their organisation on the market. Poor business culture has been a root cause of several high profile scandals which have incurred negative impacts like monetary fines, reputational damage, competitive disadvantages vis-à-vis competitors, forced changes in senior management, and greater regulatory scrutiny.

It is therefore crucial to ensure that the firm's values are lived by its individuals in their day-to-day work, and that they fully reflect the firm's ambition and strategy. Thanks to the acquisition of the research firm THT, founded in 1985 by Pr. Dr. Fons Trompenaars, KPMG has its own culture assessment tool called OVP (organisational values profiler). Through a set of questions, the OVP measures the perception of employees of their current business culture and allows them to express, for each item, what needs to change within their firm before it is best enabled to reach its long-term strategy. On this basis, we can easily identify and work on the gaps between people's perception of what the current culture is and what it should be for them to be more motivated and efficient and therefore better contribute to the collective success of the firm.

Did you say dilemma?

This culture assessment is the first step in reconciling dilemmas between the organisation's values and ambitions, on one side, and those lived by employees in day-to-day business, on the other. Reconciling such dilemmas would mean turning differences into artfully united strengths.

Dilemmas frequently experienced by companies might include:

  • achieving short-term objectives versus working on the business's long-term sustainability
  • needing structure and procedures versus needing flexibility to adapt to fast-changing markets
  • pursuing mass production versus having to customise products to local specificities

Reconciling these dilemmas differs from the traditional compromise, in the sense that it's not about looking for a middle way, but about combining and benefiting from the opposing aspects.

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