Making change happen – Leadership and Culture

November 11, 2021
Arjav Chakravarti

There is an important distinction to be made between managing change and making it happen. It is the difference between a team that responds to change by trying to survive, and one that looks for opportunities to move faster towards a goal. Which team would you rather be a part of?

The speed at which some organizations responded to COVID-19 by reimagining programs, retraining staff, adopting technology, and raising funds, all while dealing with the fallout of the pandemic on personal and community life, offer examples of what capable and committed leadership can accomplish.

Very few strategic plans would have included a global pandemic and its fallout as being significant risk factors, and yet several organizations not just survived but built new capabilities that scaled up their work significantly.

As organizations prepare for a future that looks even more uncertain, here are some of the critical questions that we at Svarya have helped leaders answer.

  • What kind of leadership will it take to survive, adapt and grow? How relevant are past successes and role models?
  • What is the speed at which our team needs to take decisions and act? Is the decentralization of decision-making a critical necessity?
  • How prepared is our team to receive information, make decisions and operate at high speed? Do our systems and processes act as enablers?
  • What kind of organization culture do we need? What are we doing to build and sustain such a culture?

Keep the following points in mind as you work on team, leadership and culture.

Clarity on strategy is a basic requirement. Only then can you build leadership and culture. Without a clear strategy it would be impossible to know if the people that you hire and promote, or the values, behaviours and practices that you encourage, will get you to where you need to be.

Strategy and culture must be compatible. Culture is what gets seen, emphasized and encouraged by members of the team even if the strategy document says the opposite. For example, a strategy that calls for quick decisions and rapid growth, and a culture that emphasizes slow, measured work cannot go hand in hand. One or the other must change.

Are you prepared to make the investment? An organization which is heavily reliant on a single leader will find it harder to adapt and grow. However, developing a cadre of capable leaders requires significant work on hiring, expectation setting, separating out areas of responsibility, defining processes, coaching, and managing performance. It takes a significant investment of time and resources to build an effective second and third line of leadership.

How willing are you to take risks? Building a new culture takes trust and patience, but also the ability to take risks and not give up after a few failures. There will inevitably be failures in organizations that are moving quickly – in hiring, project execution, alignment of expectations, ways of working, and so on. The only thing that will eventually matter is the ability of the entire team to reflect on the causes of those failures, learn from them, and move forward.

Growing an organization is not just about an increase in the size of a team but also a growth in capability, ambition, willingness and togetherness of the individuals who make up the team. Leaders who make the effort to build a broader and more capable leadership group are ultimately rewarded with an organization that is better able to realize its goals.

Back to Perspectives