Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

Dilemma: can you, should you, attempt to change your organization’s culture? Thoughts?

Okay, this is an experiment at crowdsourcing solutions … here’s the dilemma:

  • we all know that culture is a “challenge”  for our current change initiative, Program or Project (let’s be clear this is a euphemism!)
  • BUT addressing culture was never raised in the business case or in the initial Program scoping
  • quite possibly whoever brings it up now takes a big career risk
  • What do we do – do we talk about the elephant in the room or sweep it under the rug?

Please share your thoughts by commenting.  I will summarize and share mine back in a couple of days here or on a related post – don’t want to miss it … you can subscribe by email at the top left.

What do you think?

How can you change your organization’s culture? Book Review: “Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture (1)

If you recognize that your organization needs either a wholesale culture change (as Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop expressed this week (2)) or tweaking in certain units, this book will provide you with an excellent framework and the language to discuss it.  The authors, Cameron and Quinn, are renown in this space and the book is an expansion of decades of academic research and field application.

The foundation, Competing Values Framework, sets out a 2×2 matrix with 4 different organizational culture types (Clan, Hierarchy, Adhocracy and Market Cultures) and the authors maintain that most organizations exhibit differing degrees of each.

The beauty of the framework is that it takes the intuitive (and sometimes not so intuitive) and makes it plain, gives it structure that can be measured and discussed.  As I peeked ahead to read the model, I could immediately recognize characteristics s of organizations that I have worked with.  Even rough plotting current and desired state values seemed intuitive and suddenly easy to talk about. Further reading illuminating much more meat on the model worthy of further study – the Management Skills Assessment Instrument and Organizational Change Assessment Instrument (OCAI) are simultaneously straightforward and comprehensive.

The book claims that the approach provides six advantages: practical, timely, involving, quantitative and qualitative, manageable and valid.  I have to concur – this book delivers. 

Evidence is emerging every quarter that our most established and revered organizations are only reactive to change – are not demonstrating the capability to evolve at the pace that the market is demanding.  In my opinion, these organizations are constrained by three factors: the vision of leadership, the effectiveness of their strategies and … the ability to change the cultures of these organizations.  The success of our economies and our communities going forward will depend, to large degree, on whether we accelerate our commitment to these areas. 

In correspondence with Professor Quinn I asked for authoritative online description of OCAI to share with you and he referred me to the Competing Values Company where you can access much more information.

Of note, the third edition, published by John Wiley, is due for release in Canada on March 9th 2011 and will contain a downloadable online version of the Management Skills Assessment Instrument and the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument.

Also of note, I think we can expect to hear the reference to “the burning platform” a lot more in 2011.  It would be appropriate to acknowledge Daryl Conner who coined the phrase following the Piper Alpha explosion to articulate the notion of choice between certain death (failure) and potential life (hope).  He was interviewed recently by Luc Galoppin and described this in his own words “Burning Platform: The Misunderstanding ” (Part 1 here and Part 2 here).


(1) “Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture”, Kim S. Cameron and Roger E. Quinn, John Wiley & Sons, 2006, USA.

(2)“Nokia CEO Says Company Is Standing on a “Burning Platform”, Mashable, Feb 9, 2011.

Other related posts:

Is leadership, and leading change, like leading a symphony?

What does this have to do with leading change? Well “change” is the riskiest and most pressing demand facing organizations and their leaders today – and the most significant of this strategic change is of an imperative, magnitude and complexity that has rarely been attempted before.  Organizations can rarely rely on their track record.    

An overwhelming number of experts and veterans agree, the single most important success criteria for change is the quality, conviction and commitment of the leader.  If it comes down to leadership, isn’t it worth investing in getting it right?  Maybe worth a few conversations with leaders who have done this successfully before?

Here some great, and entertaining, perspectives that explore how symphonies and maestros do it so well:

  • “Lead like the Great Conductors” Itay Talgam on TED. An orchestra conductor faces the ultimate leadership challenge: creating perfect harmony without saying a word. In this charming talk, Itay Talgam demonstrates the unique styles of six great 20th-century conductors, illustrating crucial lessons for all leaders.
    continue reading here

Change Management conferences 2011

Interested in learning more about Change Management? Deepening skills and knowledge? Conferences are a great immersion experience.  Here are the ones currently listed for 2011.

Looking for a great speaker on Change Management?  We know several – give me a call at 416 845 3040 or and we will arrange introductions.

Have you heard of other good events? Please share in the comments section. Attending? Please share, maybe we will see you there.


  • “Internal Communication Change” : Melcrum Publishing, March 9 – 10 2011, London UK.  After a year of major change, redundancies, restructuring and general upheaval, many organisations now have the sobering challenge of re-engaging employees, keeping the momentum for more change ahead and ensuring that leaders know how to effectively drive that change. We’ve put together an unmissable two days to make sure that as a communicator, you’re ready to face the challenges ahead.

continue reading here