The Role of Culture in Enabling Change | MIT Sloan Management Review

Leadership & Culture

As leaders continue to manage various change initiatives, organizational culture—shorthand for describing ‘how we do things in our organization’—is a critical enabler (or inhibitor) of these changes. However, as highlighted in this new article, the enablers of cultural change vary based on the specific type of change the organization aims to achieve. To effectively use culture as an enabler of change efforts, organizations should first identify their change priority and analyze the factors within their culture that facilitate or inhibit the change. The authors offer three types of changes as a framework: 1) Reinforcing Magnituderefining and deepening the actions contributing to high levels of relevance for key stakeholders and distinctiveness from the competition; 2) Reimagining Activityrefreshing the approaches, channels, and tools being used to pursue the current strategy; 3) Rethink Directionreinvent the business model to deliver the levels of relevance and distinctiveness necessary for an economically viable business. Company examples are provided for each type of change context, and the article’s table illustrates the specific cultural actions that can be taken in response. As you evaluate various changes within your organization, consider which of the three categories they fall under and determine what aspects of the corporate culture are enabling and detracting from its ability to effectively implement change initiatives.