Theodore Kinni wrote an article for Strategy and Business titled When it Comes to Changing Culture, Think Small (August 11, 2022).

«  Effective leaders know that long-term corporate success requires a strong organizational culture that is well aligned with a company’s purpose and strategy… Nevertheless, it remains commonplace for corporate transformations, mergers and acquisitions, and other large-scale initiatives to lose momentum after running headlong into cultural barriers. What gives? This is a question that Roger Martin, a CEO advisor and the professor emeritus of strategic management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School, has been mulling for 30 years.  »

« “The truth about culture is that the only way you can change it is by changing the way individuals work with one another.” … To change the way people work together, Martin argues, leaders must model the behaviors they want to see. »

« “It’s not an on-off switch,” says Martin. “It’s a migration that starts the minute behavior starts to change… It’s like throwing pebbles into a pond to build and sustain waves. They take a while to get to the edges of the pond.” »

« When Martin was appointed dean of the Rotman School, he used micro-interventions to change a toxic culture in which faculty and students had adversarial relationships with administrators… In each area, Martin made small changes. In the faculty review process, for instance, he added a one-hour personal meeting with each professor, in which he asked for an assessment of the professor’s goals for the prior and coming year, and what the school could do to help achieve them. This meeting, he says, was instrumental in changing the nature of the review process, shifting the focus from passing judgment to collaborative cooperation.  »

«  Martin’s most salient advice to leaders is to approach culture change one sale at a time… “When leaders declare a new culture or institute a new organizational structure, they’re trying to wholesale culture by making the change all at once. But for me, it’s retail. Every interaction that you have is a chance to move the culture in the right direction.” »


Roger Martin is the author A New Way to Think: You Guide to Superior Management Effectiveness,  When More Is Not Better: Overcoming America’s Obsession with Economic Efficiency, and Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works.

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