Organisational change can occur through a series of events – a significant downturn in sales, a merger, a restructure to reflect new leadership and competitive strategy. But perhaps the most uncomfortable organisational change is when it happens very slowly, responding to wider marketplace shifts.

Working in a company that has this ‘treacle’ effect can often be more difficult.

It requires a detachment to be fully aware of these subtle trends and have a clear understanding of its impact on your role.

The following are typical signs that your company may be saying goodbye to its culture:

  • You cease to have any real impact with those around you. Everyone simply ‘exists‘. There are no serious conflicts but neither are there any strong working rhythms that allow individuals to spark ideas or move forward at a good pace. One of my clients describe this as being ‘in retirement’ mode.
  • Talking to peers in competitor companies makes you think you could be both working for the same company, the outlook and behaviours are so aligned it is difficult to fully understand what identity your company belongs to. Looking more closely you can see staff moving back and forward between similar companies as though they are moving between departments rather than a real career progression.
  • Talk is focused not around the change that companies are moving towards but moving away from. One global company, used to frequent restructuring, is seeing a shift around discussion of roles that will focus less on what it should be doing but with no clear indication of any new real responsibilities the role should take on. Key roles therefore begin to be ‘watered down’.

Saying goodbye to such a culture without a clear alternative culture emerging may also mean encouraging ambitious staff to move to another company rather than be frustrated in this slow moving environment. The most difficult scenario is when individuals try to ‘replay the past’ in their behaviours without understanding the wider impact this will have.

Leaders play an important part of course. Communicating subtle changes is more of a challenge. There is no urgency to create and no significant mistakes being made. Taking a helicopter view of the whole marketplace to determine trends and opportunities can be a useful way of helping staff recognise the cultural shifts.