Executive Buy-In Essential & Necessary for Culture Change

Continuing the conversation on the importance of executive buy-in, you cannot expect to change the fundamental culture of your organization unless that change is seen as needed by your CEO and then promoted through actions and words by the CEO directly. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discussed just this topic:

A study of 30 large corporations done during the past five years by Senn Delaney shows that a program of cultural change led from the top and encompassing every part of the organization can "deliver huge cost savings, improve performance and boost profitability."

In the report, John Roberts, chief executive officer in 1999 of United Utilities PLC of Warrington, England, says: "I saw my role as chief executive being about getting the very best people at the highest level and letting them get on with it, not telling them how to do their job.” …

Chris Roebuck, a visiting professor of transformational leadership at Cass Business School in London, says: "In the right culture, people believe in the organization, in their land manager, and therefore help them perform as much as possible, they think they are valued by the organization, both employers and workers are gaining mutual benefit.”
When employees feel there are valued by the organization and believe in the organization, they will do the right thing. The upscale American department store, Nordstrom, epitomized the truth of this. As the late founder, James Nordstrom was quoted as saying:

“People work hard when they are given the freedom to do the job the way they think it should be done, when they can treat customers the way they like to be treated. When you start taking away their incentive and start given them rules, boom, you’ve killed their creativity.”

This CEO attitude – promotion of a culture of trust to do the right thing – played out in two simple rules for store employees:
1) In all situations, use your good judgment.
2) In other situations, refer back to the first rule.

Have you attempted culture change with executive buy-in? How successful was the effort? Tell me about initiatives in your organization spearheaded by the CEO. What was different in how the effort played out over time?

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