You have done the work to identify what changes to your strategy and culture your organization needs to meet your strategic goals; now you are faced with how to get there. My experience with strategy and culture alignment has shown that one of the keys to successfully enacting and sustaining culture change is to recruit culture champions.
Culture champions are the organization’s ‘boots on ground’. They are tasked to provide support and guidance for your managers and have first-hand knowledge of the strategy context of the organization. They are the organization’s front line to ensure a successful transition. Since many people leaders in any organization are late adopters or resistant to change, culture champions are critical to implementing and sustaining transformational culture change.
Why Culture Champions?
Culture champions are key in providing people leaders with the real-time support needed to develop new skills, overcome obstacles, maintain velocity, and create accountability. Culture champions are a group of individuals specifically assigned to four or five people leaders and have the respect, trust, and facilitation skills needed to implement effective change. The culture champions share best practices, identify common obstacles and receive specific methods to use with their assigned managers. When the number of culture champions needed is significant (over 150), use a tiered approach. This includes front-line culture champions, super champions, and/or master champions. It is key for a change expert – internal or external – to identify these individuals, arm them with enough knowledge to begin, and provide ongoing support and education through real-world situations that arise.
So, how do you choose the right people to be culture champions?
Should All Culture Champions Be Part of HR?
HR employees are valuable resources throughout all change initiatives, but successful organizational change is owned by everyone. If all your culture champions are from your HR department, culture change becomes “HR’s problem.” Culture champions should be accessible and available throughout the organization. If this sounds like your HR team, great! However, in most cases culture champions should be representative across multiple departments, levels, and locations in the organization to encourage multiple perspectives and experiences.
Should Culture Champions Be Limited to the Highest Performers?
High performers (or high potentials) in the organization tend to stand out as having the qualities of effective culture champions. Indeed, being a culture champion is an excellent development opportunity, with exposure to strategic decisions and leaders across the organization. However, being a culture champion is a time commitment. Your high performers or potentials are often already busy and involved in multiple projects and initiatives, and despite their enthusiasm, just might not have the time!
Effective Culture Champions…
…act with integrity. They are honest, trustworthy, dependable, and most importantly, maintain confidentiality in all conversations.
…are willing to make a change. Culture champions are on board with the changes the organization is trying to pursue and are committed to the organization’s success.
…build trusted relationships. They inspire mutual respect and truly partner and collaborate with others to make progress.
…are seen as resources in the organization. Culture champions are knowledgeable and skilled; if they do not know the answer, they know where they could go to find it.
…teach and coach others. They are patient and encouraging, set others up for success, and empower others to learn and practice new skills.
Culture champions are a key instrument in implementing and sustaining culture change. Choosing the right culture champions is critical to successfully executing your strategy for culture change.
Work Effects is committed to building trusted leaders and purposeful cultures to help organizations achieve lasting results and competitive advantage. Participate in the conversation online at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/using-culture-champions-implement-sustain-change-michael-stewart/