MNC Consulting Group Newsletter
November 2014
Shifting Culture


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. 

How Consultants Can Help

Change management consultants, Lean consultants, management consultants and every other shade of gray of consultant can be an asset to your organization to kick-start culture change.


However, consultants cannot help in every area.


When your organization is ready to change its culture to include efficient systems and processes, here is what consultants can and cannot do for you (adapted from David Mann's "Creating a Lean Culture"):


  1. Consultants can teach you about lean principles, techniques, and how to see the difference between current and lean systems and processes. But consultants cannot implement or manage your new lean systems or processes.
  2. Consultants can offer advice, critique, suggestions and prod you to have an efficient and productive organization. But consultants cannot make decisions regarding how to proceed.
  3. Consultants can stretch and challenge your thinking. But consultants cannot make decisions regarding how to proceed.
  4. Consultants can provide you with "ah-ha" insights. But consultants cannot create and maintain a disciplined adherence to the system for you.
  5. Consultants can stimulate you to take action. But consultants cannot force you to continuously compare actual to expected results.
  6. Consultants can review and critique your lean management practices. But consultants cannot work directly with your subordinates regarding executing their expectations and extending the system in their areas.


Whether you deal with internal or external consultants, you, as leader, have final say about your behaviour. By demonstrating expected new behaviour to your subordinates, you will encourage your subordinates to follow your lead.


And remember this: "The nature of discipline in organizations is that it is always a domestic product, never an import!" 

In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)
In my work, I meet many leaders. Some are really good at their jobs and managing people. But if I was called to attest to their leadership capabilities, I'd be perjuring myself if I said that many of them are leaders. Managing is not the same as leading. If you're making excuses for the way things are instead of acting to make things better, then your leadership qualities are suspect. If you deflect blame for situations instead of committing to and working on making things better, what does that say about you as a leader? If you mumble and grumble about your staff instead of looking inward and outward to identify the source of staff frustration and fixing the situation, you're falling short on leadership. At the end of the day, leaders not only own both the problem and the solution, but they also admit their ownership. IMHO.

"Change or die."

- Alan Deutschman


About MNC Consulting Group
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In This Issue
Shifting Culture
How Consultants Can Help
In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)
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