Capitalize, don’t curtail: Leveraging organizational culture

By Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse J. Krone, Command sergeant major of 73rd Ordnance BattalionApril 5, 2024

Frequently we frame cultural change in organizations as a necessary return to normalcy, discipline, and structure. A call to arms of what “right” looks like; it frequently pits new ways of thinking with long standing practices. Practices that comfort those deeply nested in organizational ways and, in some cases, may drive resistance to change. Rarely do leaders focus on capitalizing on existing culture to drive change and instead focus on temporary advancements that usually fail to stand the test of time.

Leaders who identify the need to change organizational culture often do so based on the need to better align collective efforts with a unit’s goals and objectives. New leaders bring new perspectives that include initiatives and priorities requiring commitment to modifying standing practices and to pivot to new strategic efforts. It is at this juncture that capitalizing on an organization’s existing culture becomes paramount. Utilizing methods to empower subordinates to gain buy-in at all levels enhances a leader’s ability to capitalize on an organization’s existing culture. Creating ground-up ownership of ideas and initiatives better motivates both individual and collective thought and further empowers existing relationships and standard operating procedures within organizations.

A leader’s ability to identify influential members of an organization is critical in shaping organizational change. Frequently associated with collective thought and energy, culture also derives from influential members who set the tone of attitudes and collective buy-in. Influential members are frequently well known and well respected, a leader doesn’t have to investigate to find these teammates, they are normally proudly presented as subject matter experts and sage advisors. Seek out these members to advocate a level of ownership in organizational change, they can be a leadership asset or set the tone for resistance.

Implementing cultural changes requires active participation from leaders to continuously assess the impacts changes are having across a workforce. Seeking feedback from subordinates and the total force displays that the leader is attuned to the impact changes have and is willing to adapt to achieve success. It is this active participation that will empower existing cultural ties in the organization and create a pathway for change though skepticism and resistance that leaders frequently face. Of note, leaders who identify practices that are immoral, unethical, or unlawful must act quickly to resolve these more tangible cultural challenges directly.

Leaders have the capability to greatly influence the culture of an organization. Realistically, the time and ability to influence that change is limited and creates a stress to achieve drastic changes in a relatively short period of time. Leaders who ‘zoom out’ and take the time to understand an organization’s existing culture will find themselves better suited to influence organizational culture strategically. Empower your team to achieve success, reward culture that builds teams, empower subordinates. Leaders must remind themselves that organizational culture isn’t an individual endeavor, it’s a team, it’s a mission, it’s a workforce’s drive to success. Capitalize on it.

Capitalize, don’t curtail: Leveraging organizational culture
Command Sergeant Major Jesse J. Krone, Command sergeant major of 73rd Ordnance Battalion (Photo Credit: Sgt. Maj. Shelia Fourman) VIEW ORIGINAL