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Organizational Transformation Definition and What It Means

By Sue Wigston on February 18, 2016

Organizational transformation is the process of transforming and changing the existing corporate culture to achieve a competitive advantage or address a significant challenge. It can be an exciting time for any organization. It is visible action taken by organizational leaders to move from the present to the future in order to achieve a specific outcome or benefit. It typically involves many, if not all, of the people in the organization and has the potential to refocus and reenergize the entire workforce. 

The challenge for many organizations though is knowing their is a need for organizational transformation, but not being certain of what the corporate culture needs to be transformed to. For example, you may have formal mission statement and company values defined, but when it comes to having organizational leaders articulate the organizational culture in a clear, succinct way, they struggle.

Yet this is the first and most important step to achieving organizational transformation: understanding your existing culture. Here, we’ve broken down the difference between mission, values, and culture to help you get started. Once you can distinguish between these terms and clearly define your organization’s current culture, you will be able to move forward with confidence. 

 

Mission

First, the mission or vision - two words that can be used interchangeably without problem. A mission is fairly straightforward: it is your organization’s reason for existing and the charter under which leadership operates. In other words, what purpose does it serve?

 

Values

Values are the principles by which the organization abides. For example, if the values include “empowerment” and “integrity”, then it’s likely that employees demonstrate respect for each other in their daily interactions, assume responsibility for mistakes, and hold themselves accountable for results. If values include “excellent customer service,” then a focus on the customer (internal and/or external) influences everything an employee does in his or her workday. While values are important for formally defining culture and influencing, remember that organizational culture is more complex than a few broad, sweeping words.

 

Want to know more about culture transformation? Here's everything you need to  know.

 

Culture

You can think of culture as your organization’s personality, as defined by the sum total of all behaviors of the individuals within that organization. The key to thinking about organizational culture is looking at how things are done. Those working in a culture may or may not be able to articulate exactly what the culture is, but they will convey it through statements like “Everyone here works long hours” or “We just seem to rely a lot on one another.”

Keep in mind that an organization’s written values may be aspirational and not an honest representation of its current culture. Closing the gap between an organization’s professed values and its actual culture is often the point of cultural transformation.

 

Defining Your Culture

If you want a complete, honest picture of your culture as it is now, it’s important to talk to employees at all levels of the organization. You’re looking for their honest opinions about what it’s like to work there, how they feel about the culture, the leadership, their own teams and divisions, and so forth. You may want to bring in outside consultants for this process, as they can offer not only expertise, but an unbiased perspective as well.

Here are a few different approaches you can take to gather feedback from employees about the existing company culture:

    • Engagement Surveys: measure the mental and emotional connection employees feel with their jobs and their organization.
    • Focus groups: this approach allows organizations to capture feedback on how individuals feel about their own department in relation to the culture, allowing the organization to pinpoint problems or areas of improvement.
  • Meetings with high-potential employees: these employees typically represent key influencers in the organization and their feedback tends to be reasoned, well-balanced, and represents the best interests of the company. Their feedback is crucial to defining the current culture.
  • Meetings with executives: an organization’s culture is a result of these executive’s leadership skills which makes their feedback vital in the definition process.

As you might imagine, having actual conversations with employees yields the best insights to your organizational culture. This process may unearth areas of dysfunction or other issues, but the more concrete information and examples you have, the better equipped you are to undergo a culture transformation that is successful.

 

Begin Your Organizational Transformation With Confidence 

Now that you are aware of the definition of organizational transformation and what it means, you are aware that it’s important to consider each of the aspects listed, and the relative weight of each. From there you can determine how best, and what, to alter in order to ensure the newly transformed culture is what’s wanted, sustainable, and carrying no unforeseen consequences.

 

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As Chief Operating Officer, Sue's extensive senior leadership experience and facilitation skills have established her as a trusted partner and organizational development expert. She has a proven track record of successfully leading culture transformation in Fortune 500 companies and has established herself as an authority on training and development. Sue has over 20 years of experience in the creation and delivery of programs and custom designed solutions for Eagle's Flight.

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Founded in 1988, Eagle's Flight has earned its reputation as a global leader in the development and delivery of business-relevant, experiential learning programs that achieve specific training objectives and lasting behavior changes.

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