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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Organization Culture Change is Hard


Sometimes you make a decision. It may be hard, it may be easy – that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how much the decision differs from what is common in the organization.

If you start playing fair in an organization which never played fair or start making difficult tradeoffs in a company which always deferred any decision to the point when it was basically made by itself or make people accountable in a firm which used to allow people to slack it isn’t really about the specific decision. It isn’t about being fair or making a tradeoff or expecting someone to be accountable.

It’s about the change.

The organization has never done that. People aren’t used to such actions.

So they oppose.

They rant and moan and occasionally even fight back because it’s not common. It’s not the part of the organization culture. It isn’t about merits. It’s about the change.

That’s why every organization culture change is very hard. I tend to underestimate the effect of such changes and it always comes back to kick my butt.

The next time you think about your great idea, think how it changes the rules which are in the organization. If the change is significant don’t treat it just as a new great idea – treat it as cultural change. Which happens to be pretty damn hard.

in: team management

6 comments… add one

  • Szymon Pobiega June 2, 2011, 12:05 am

    I guess the only valid answer is to have an organization where change is the only constant. Are there any such organizations?

  • Pawel Brodzinski June 2, 2011, 12:31 am

    I think Google was such an organization and still is to some point. Then if we discuss small to medium companies I believe you can change people attitude. However it is long and quite painful process which requires a lot of support from top management.

    I believe I was successful in introducing such change once. It took about 2,5 years.

  • Marcin June 3, 2011, 12:00 am

    If I may add something from my experience. Don’t try to change everything at once, small steps are much easier to achieve. And even small step could help a lot.

  • Le Do Hoang Long June 3, 2011, 2:33 am

    Good view, Pawel. Though I think that even when receiving high-management support, the changes would still be very difficult.

  • Pawel Brodzinski June 3, 2011, 4:37 am

    With top management support it is difficult indeed. Without the support it’s impossible. Either way you risk being fired during the process which adds some spice too.

  • hsd June 28, 2011, 2:44 pm

    You are right the point is in the change at all. A good description of this topic is in the book “Peopleware” of Tom DeMarco. Question is on which age we are so resistant about changes :)

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