One tribe, one culture.


In the article ‘How to identify the new digital tribes’ he referred to the need to know and listen to the members of the tribe before starting an experience of cultural transformation. It is an essential exercise before undertaking a transformation project.

One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is approaching the challenge of cultural transformation as if it were a sales campaign. They have skipped that previous phase, active listening. And when they meet halfway they realize that it doesn’t work. They find strong resistance to Change, if not directly attempts to sabotage the initiatives by the Tribe. So promoters perceive that they are wasting time and money. When this happens, they either persevere with more executive implementation methods (increasing resistance), or they modify communication strategies (increasing levels of skepticism in the tribe).

What do we mean when we talk about corporate culture


To understand why cultural transformation projects often fail, we must deepen our understanding of the parts that make up a corporate culture. Effective culture is a permanent systemic framework over time that identifies how an organization is your DNA.

Much has been written about the elements that compose it, sometimes in a very theoretical way. From my point of view, the most important factors that make up an organizational culture are three:

  • Beliefs: Are those general ideas that constitute the common heritage of the entire tribe. They manifest in common current purpose, beliefs about a past, and shared projections about a future.
  • Values: They are collective perceptions about what is desirable for the common good. They must set the pace of the organization and the behaviors of all members of the tribe.
  • Behaviors: They are the behaviors of the members of the tribe. The way things are done. They must be consistent with values, when they are not, cultural bankruptcy crises occur. Parts that make up these behaviors are liturgies or rituals (systematic and programmed activities that are carried out in the company to mark certain moments or events), corporate language (the way messages are transmitted) or myths (stories told in the form of anecdote or ‘fable’ about past events that reflect metaphors of values).

Confront the cultural gap.


An essential element in the management of corporate culture is to identify the difference between the effective culture and the desired culture to achieve the adaptation of the company to the current or future environment. This is a first level challenge because it is one thing to write a strategic plan and another to transform the beliefs, values ​​and behaviors that have survived throughout the history of our organization and that have led us to be what we are. Corporate culture, by its very nature, tends to endure over time. Changing it to adapt it to a new strategic framework is not an easy task. This is what I call putting the strategy to work

A fairly common problem when dealing with the transformation of corporate culture occurs when one or more managers confuse the concept of effective culture with that of perceived culture. This occurs when they understand that the tribe’s set of beliefs, values, and behaviors coincide with their own, or with those of the management team. To put it graphically, sometimes the mindset of the Directorate does not coincide with the mindset of the tribe.

This gap constitutes one of the most serious organizational pathologies that a company can suffer. In this scenario, managers tend to project their perceived culture onto a tribe that looks at them as if they were aliens from another planet. And curiosity turns to fear when they come to think that they can abduct them to their flying saucer to inoculate them with the vaccine of the new desired culture. This vaccine usually comes in the form of corporate conventions, communication programs with spectacular videos and presentations full of attractive slogans.


A new way of approaching transformation


Based on the segmentation proposed in the previous section, you will have to deal with a part of the tribe that will tend to maintain a high level of performance (innovators and early adopters), another that will maintain a medium level of performance (pragmatists and conservatives ) and another that will tend to maintain a low level of performance (skeptics). The first group will constitute 16%, the second 68% and the third another 16%, of the total of the tribe. In this way, from the perspective of the level of performance regarding the assumption of changes, the composition would be as follows:

  • High performance: Innovators and early adopters. 16% of the tribe.
  • Average performance: Pragmatic and conservative. 68% of the tribe.
  • Low Performance: Skeptics. 16% of the tribe.

The former will adopt any change because leading it and assuming it early is his way of being. You have to try to achieve an ecosystem that retains that talent because it is essential to maintain the innovative character of any organization. The second constitutes a silent majority. Their attitude will change depending on whether they perceive that the change brings them any benefit. The third group, the skeptics, is a lost cause. They will only change when there is no other choice, regardless of HR action. As my friend Marcos Urarte says, here you will find ‘amargeitors’ and ‘saboteitors’. And if you get rid of any of the seconds, a ‘amargeitor’ will replace it immediately.

From a numerical point of view, it would seem that the drive towards change should be carried out on that silent majority that are pragmatists and conservatives. After all, they represent two-thirds of the entire tribe. But things don’t work that way. The problem with the silent majorities is that they are cynical, they ask themselves things like: what do I get in exchange for making the sacrifice of change? What if the change doesn’t work? What can happen to me then? Consequently, they are resistant to change until they verify that a significant number of tribal members have assumed the change.

According to the Everett Rogers principle, this will not happen until we have achieved that between 155 and 18% of the tribe have assumed that change. In other words, the turning point occurs when the assumption of the change has achieved a market share of between 16% and 18%. That turning point is what Jeffrey Moore called the abyss (chasm). Any change management strategy must aim for a sufficient level of adoption by tribal members to bridge that gap at an early stage.

To do this, you must design a strategy to achieve the adoption of the group of early adopters. If you succeed, a sufficient percentage of pragmatists will follow them and you will get across Moore’s Chasm. Do not worry about conservatives and skeptics, it will not be worth it because you will lose precious time. Remember that pragmatists only change if someone has changed before, and that conservatives will change the same way, only later.


The challenge of falling in love with an early adopter.


So, focus your efforts on identifying and convincing early adopters.

If you want to build the shift towards hybrid work environments, or if you want to keep your organization riding the wave of innovation, you are going to have to manage the change. And in this process the early adopters will be the main prescribers. That is why you will have to identify them and adopt specific HR strategies so that they ‘buy’ your employee value proposition. We will talk about that in a future article.