Much as we’d like to find an easy way to change an organization’s culture, there just isn’t one. That’s because even though it’s common to think of our organizations as machines – we describe them in mechanistic ways: “We function like a well-oiled machine” and draw diagrams of them that are pictures of gears fitting together neatly – they’re not. They’re organic living systems made up of lots and lots of people. That means the culture created by all those people is a living, organic thing too. And, just like any living thing faced with the possibility of death and extinction, a culture will fight tooth and nail to survive and work as hard as it can to replicate itself. Resistance to change, either active: arguing against the change, disrupting change efforts, and/or passive: refusing to participate or ‘waiting it out’ are simply examples of ‘fight or flight’ responses we’d expect from living organisms that find themselves in danger. So, next time you’re frustrated that your culture isn’t changing as quickly as you’d like, remind yourself that people aren’t machines and that changing culture is always going to be a long, slow, organic process.

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Karyn Ross Consulting

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