PART 1: The maths of change – it all adds up!! Or does it?

Statistics show that 81% of change initiatives fail.  Change is hard, really hard.  See my blog on New Year’s Resolutions.

If change was easy, it would not have been such a conundrum.  Change is a dreaded word (apart from New Year’s resolutions). Not only in life, but also in organisations.  Why is that? Don’t mess with a good thing, right?

I am going to use a few analogies to illustrate my thinking around this subject.  Let us look at mature cheddar cheese. If you have a sensitive palette, you will want to buy the same good quality cheese consistently time and time again.  What a disappointment when the manufacturers change the recipe, the ingredients and the final product is not the same quality you are used to.  That change is not to the benefit to the customer or the manufacturer.  Another example is when the management team or the management style of a restaurant changes. It many times has a major impact in the customer experience. The ingredients of the food or the service of waiters impacts your experience.  The process of making a reservation, paying the bill, ordering the food – all of that impacts on your experience. 

Sometimes change is for the good and other times change is for the worse.  One should consider a lot of aspects when you want to bring about change.  You don’t want to change for the sake of changing.  Mostly one should just change if you want to give a better product or the same quality product at a better price. Look at our cheese analogy. If cheese is the final product, you can change the recipe (that will impact the taste of the cheese). This can have a positive or negative impact on the final product.  You can change the equipment to make the same cheese more affordable. You can change the ingredients, but that will again change quality of the cheese. One of the main ingredients of cheese is the culture. If you change the culture, you will get a different product altogether. If that is what you were after, good, but if you wanted better quality of the same cheese, you are in for a surprise.

Many times we focus on the culture in our companies, but be aware – only change the culture if you know what cheese you would like to make. It is no use to change the culture if you don’t want the product to change.  If your problem is productivity – the change must not necessarily be on the culture – rather consider changing the systems and process.

Culture is important, but it does not trump everything. Culture is not necessarily the root cause. One should never solely or directly focus on culture alone when it is time to change – it is far more integrated and complicated than only the culture.

Culture is shaped and affected by:

The manager’s style.

The company’s structure and processes.

The people.


Behaviour and performance.


Not all the aspects of the current culture is bad. Some habits or culture aspects are good – it is what has kept your company surviving.  Keep what is good – enhance that strength.  I coached a graphic and website design company.  The wanted to change their culture from a negative, judgemental, sensitive environment to a positive, engaged, autonomous environment. But they quickly realised they have an incredible creative team and they did not want that to change.  All the change initiatives had to protect the creativity that made them stand out in their design work. If they did not protect that part of their culture they might have got all the other things they wanted, but lost the one aspect that made them competitive.

 You have to match your strategy and the prevailing culture. What aspect(s) in the current culture supports the strategy? If you feel by now it doesn’t add up – then there is a multiplier effect – and that is the conclusion I came up with after studying this subject.

Here is my formula for change:

With the formula for the metaphor:


For the mathematic lovers, it follows that when you Increase the Leader/Manager efforts positively, the Change or Product will be increased.  Similarly when you Increase the Individual/Team effort positively, the Change/Product will be increased. And finally an Increase in the amount of Systems and Processes will decrease the Change/Product.

In conclusion of Part One of the series of Change and Culture: What type of cheese do you want to make? Cheddar/Feta/Pecorino.  Is the “New” culture realistic? Will it produce the product I need and is the product better than the one I had before? Culture is only ONE of the crucial ingredients to make lasting change in your company.

Part 2 – 6 will unpack all the different aspects of the equation for deeper understanding.

If you want to read all the articles, here are the links:

If you rather prefer to read it in English, here are the links:

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