Dear Bob ...
Our management team just finished reading your new book, "Bare Bones Change Management." We compared notes and decided to try tackling a culture change using the techniques you described.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Bob offers more tips on a reader's culture change plan in "Treat culture change as engineering: Form follows function." | Keep up on career advice with Bob Lewis' Advice Line newsletter. ]
That's where we got bogged down. Every time we took a situation and tried to describe how our employees respond (in both positive and negative terms, as you recommended), we ended up laying out processes. For example, we tried the situation "a major server goes down." The next thing we knew, we were describing our troubleshooting procedure.
I'm pretty sure this isn't what you had in mind.
Where are we going wrong? More important, what do we do about it?
- Culturally Deprived
Dear Deprived ...
This happens a lot when we start working with leadership teams on culture change, and it's understandable.
To quickly summarize for those who haven't read the book, the culture change process starts with a characterization of the culture's current state, described in situation/response statements. It's easy to fall into the trap of describing the response in terms of too-specific behaviors, which is what your management team has ended up doing.
What you need to do is move from specifics to generalizations. "When a major server fails," is too specific, as is "our employees first try to restart it, then check the power cord, then the power supply, then ..."
As you suspect, your team is straying out of the realm of culture and into the realm of procedure. Instead of "when a major server fails," try "when there's a crisis," "when there's a major outage," or some other, broader description of the situation.