The word "culture" first appeared in early Romans (Cicero) as "cultura animi" or "cultivation of the soul." In today's business, we use the term to describe the "intangibles" of how people act. It incorporates a group's or an organization's views, experiences and ways of engagement in all it does.
An organizational culture steeped with inefficiencies relating to service or product deliveries is also dealing with inefficiencies in work habits. Fixing process is usually easy, but changing the accompanying work habits is a separate challenge.
"Build it and they will come" does not work to encourage employees to use new processes or systems when habits are in question.
In traditional organizations, cultural practices include longstanding ways of relating to others at work. In contrast, lean (efficient) practices depend on employees following a structured process.
Breaking or kicking a habit connotes that a habit is a one-time occurrence. In fact, habits cannot be broken or kicked. Instead, they are extinguished over time by gradually replacing old methods with new ways of doing things.
Habits, more so than systems and processes, form the base of an organization's culture. Regardless of newly implemented efficient systems and processes, old habits can linger and show up again under the right conditions.
Think about these potential areas where employees may backslide after efficient processes and systems are implemented:
- An employee may build up inventory because they are used to having stock "just in case" the workstation runs out.
- A supervisor may send a worker off of a balanced line to track down a part or do re-work elsewhere.
- When a problem arises, an employee may be tempted to work around the problem instead of addressing and fixing the problem before resuming work.
- A worker may take a longer break because the workload seems manageable at the moment.
- A worker may not follow organization-wide procedure because he/she believes they have a better way of doing the task.
Each of the above examples pose potential risk to not only backsliding to old habits, but also a risk to the entire system and process. While a "one-off" action won't necessarily break the system, it will encourage more backsliding to old ways of doing things.
Shift your organization's culture by engaging employees to work differently than they did before. Start the shift at the top to see a measurable difference in your organization's performance.