Organizational Change
Cultural Change Starts With Conversation

“Our goal is to make the intangible tangible, which is what we have to do with culture,” said Pamela Wilhelms, founder of Wilhelms Consulting Group, during a Monday workshop at SB'16 San Diego.

The workshop, “Understanding and Measuring Cultural and Systems-Change Dimensions within Companies,” focused on how forward-thinking companies can initiate cultural shifts toward sustainability — and how to measure success.

As the world moves toward a more sustainable economy, leading brands will be those capable of identifying and measuring healthy cultural dynamics. But culture often is too subjective and intangible to measure.

That is to say, business leaders ought to study how employees experience the organization now, and how they’d like them to experience it in the future. In complex social systems, organizational culture is consistently found to be one of the top two leverage points for driving sustainable change.

“As we shift from mechanistic to social models, we now look at organizations as dynamic systems, and not just a machine,” Wilhelms said.

Wilhelms identified four dimensions of leadership: Physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.

“We spend 95 percent of our time developing ourselves intellectually, but people follow us for the other three,” she said.

But embracing sustainability is an inherently spiritual shift.

“It is a deeply spiritual shift that it’s not okay for 5 percent of the world consuming half the world’s resources,” Wilhelms said.

Using the common iceberg metaphor for organizations, Wilhelms reiterated that culture lies beneath the waterline.

“We are raising the level of consciousness when we make people aware of what they are doing,” she said.

However, before organizational consciousness can be raised, leadership consciousness must first be raised.

One way to measure organizational consciousness is through Richard Barrett’s Seven Levels Model, which describes the evolutionary development of human consciousness. This model ranges from basic survival instincts to self-esteem to loftier ideals of service.

“At the core of all performance is how people feel,” Wilhelms explained.

Discussing some of the science behind neurophysiology, Wilhelms said driving change is about finding the right leverage point. This starts with making sure the right conversations are being had, and those within the organization who may be resistant to change may be identified and engaged to bring them on board.

“We get stronger when we’re centered. The more centered we can get people, the more clear people will be thinking,” Wilhelms said.

With culture successfully transformed, brands will benefit from more productive and engaged employees, a stronger organizational purpose and the security of knowing their operations are in line with their ideals.

The moral?

“Culture stops everything and it drives everything,” Wilhelms said.


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