The data shows that 70% of corporate change efforts either totally fail, have lukewarm results, or the change never becomes an integral part of the company culture. As I talk to clients about their change efforts, what’s worked and what hasn’t, some clear patterns emerge.
Change is not an event — it’s a process. You make plans for the executive to announce the change to employees. The executive talks about why it’s important for the company to make the change, what the change will look like, and the assistance the company will provide employees during this transformation process. The executive responds to employee questions and recommends that employees discuss any additional questions with their managers. A thoughtful speech, well delivered with empathy around challenges of change . . . it’s good, but it’s not enough. The executives have been thinking about and planning this transformation for weeks or months and know it well. The employees are hearing about the change for the first time, in this hour-long, all-hands company presentation. Anxiety, shock, and fear are typical reactions. Rather than this one-time announcement, make sure executives explain that today’s meeting is the first of many that will be held periodically using different media (web, in-person, email, social network, etc.) to provide updates and answer questions. Remember, half the audience may have heard nothing beyond the statement that major change is going to happen. Fear set in and they began to think about how this change will affect them.
While you no doubt answered wellness, the reality is that when you look at the typical change programs in a major corporation today, Band-Aids are far more common. But that's hardly surprising given the short-term pressures facing organizations today. Let's reflect on a few examples:
Those in the financial services industry are still struggling to deal with the rash of new regulation post meltdown. Following a spate of high-profile failures, risk management has taken center stage, while in others there is a hurried review of operating procedures in far-flung corners of the corporation.
In virtually all industries, others are trying to respond to hemorrhaging sales statistics. Customers are no longer happy to keep quiet when they get a bad service experience - they tell their friends and followers via Facebook and Twitter. Customer churn is rampant.
Or is it increased competitive pressures? More and more new entrants are turning up to challenge and disrupt the incumbent business models of many established firms. They don't have the baggage of high-cost business models and 12 layers of management.
Chris and I recently published a report describing how to build risk and compliance principles into your company’s corporate culture. As we worked to finalize, edit, and publish the report, a flurry of new corporate scandals emerged, all related to this topic.
Here are just a few of them:
Wal-Mart executives accused of trying to hush up bribery cases in Mexico (article here).
A whistleblower accuses Infosys of engaging in a systematic practice of visa fraud (article here).
A former Goldman Sachs employee writes an op-ed for the New York Times blasting the company’s ethics (article here).
JP Morgan suffers a $2 billion trading loss due to “poorly monitored” trades (article here).
The only way your company will differentiate based on customer experience is if the culture of your organization aligns closely with the brand promise to customers. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh puts it in his blog post entitled “Your Culture Is Your Brand”: “Advertising can only get your brand so far . . . So what’s a company to do if you can’t just buy your way into building the brand you want? In a word: culture. At Zappos, our belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff — like great customer service, or building a great long-term brand, or passionate employees and customers — will happen naturally on its own.”
When Forrester looks at building a customer-focused culture, we believe firms need some precursors in place, such as a clear strategy and vision, metrics that reflect customer perceptions, and governance mechanisms that set standards and hold people accountable for changes.
Once those are in place, rewards systems are one powerful lever to keep employees focused on what’s important. My colleague Belle Bocal and I identified nine ways that companies use reward systems to build a customer-centric culture.
Celebrate Target Behavior
Many companies make the mistake of trying to tie variable compensation (e.g., bonuses) to customer experience metrics too early. What many firms have learned is that the more informal recognition programs can be even more powerful at moving culture than the compensation metrics.
Think of a medieval fortress: It was originally used for a small army, it has walls nine meters thick, and it’s surrounded by buildings hundreds of years old. Upon entering, you are confronted with the concept of eternity.
This fortress is located in the smallest state on earth — though it is also perhaps the best-known state in the world. The business housed within the fortress is what many might classify as a SME but with with complexity of a large enterprise, holy but busy, centralized but truly global — its work spans hundreds of countries with hundreds of currencies and hundreds of languages — and it serves very special and demanding clients.
Have a clue yet of where we are?
Zoom on Italy, then zoom on Rome, then zoom on Vatican City, and you can’t miss the round tower (Torrione Sisto V) where the Vatican Bank, or Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR ), is located. You won’t be allowed in if you are not a client, an employee, or part of a religious congregation. Change comes hard to institutions this steeped in tradition. To give you a clue, IOR’s previous managing director spent his entire career at IOR — 60 years — and retired at the age of 80. We all know it’s the soft and cultural aspects of transformation that are the hardest part for any organization.
Nevertheless, IOR has been going through a major change since 2008, working to replace its legacy IT system with a modern BT one. The new BT system brings more flexibility for the business, richer business functionality, and greater integration and development capabilities. Enabling fast change is the key driver for IOR’s IT transformation program from IT into BT.