The principal challenge for any CEO is to change the prevailing culture in his organization. Most CEOs in their anxiety launch transformational initiatives without looking at the existing culture and later face the avoidable resistance. The culture manifests itself in terms of attitudes of people, prevailing bureaucratic structures, siloed working, lack of team play, excessive controls, lack of response to various stakeholders and a track record of bandaged solutions to problems. Additionally, if the workforce is unionized, the attitude of trade unions becomes a critical factor. This is where CEOs need to work. Sometimes such prior work needs sufficient lag time.
The Book CEO: Chess Master or Gardener elaborately deals with the issue of culture change and the initiatives taken in piloting a major transformation programme in a large public-sector bank (Chapter 11 & 12). The tension and traumas of changing an existing culture of industrial relations, apart, the major emphasis of change was on demolishing existing bureaucracy in decision making, building a responsive culture, engaging people and reconnecting with the customers. Working intensively on culture change not only led to many transformational changes including the introduction of new technology but dramatic growth in business.
CEOs can ignore attempting culture change only at the risk of putting the transformation of their organizations in jeopardy. This is the most fundamental work for any CEO to align the organizations to the requirement of competitive times.
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