We know that icebergs are dangerous. They aren’t dangerous because they scratch or bite us, but because of their unknowable mass under the waves. Made of freshwater, icebergs’ relative low density makes them float high in the ocean. With about 90% of their mass under the surface, they’re very hard to map and even harder to predict.
Our company cultures are icebergs. We choose to spend our day-to-day dabbling in the visible aspects we can see and control. We create a vision and post it on the bulletin board. We use that to outline a strategy and define our shared values. We establish procedures to achieve our strategy and create the structure to support them.
While we focus on the visible, the real drivers are happening under the surface. 90% of the bulk of our company culture is beneath the surface, their details unseen their force always felt.
Just under the waves, where we only have to stick our head under to see, are our company beliefs, our shared assumptions and our traditions. We don’t often define these things, but we typically know what they are. Going deeper, we’ll find the unwritten rules that guide our daily behaviour. We never talk about them, but those affected by them always feel them. They can constrain behaviour and stifle innovation, and because they’re often tacitly allowed by management, they’re very hard to define and remove.
At the darkest depths you’ll find the inner feelings of your staff. These are forces that we keep buried within us but guide our most fundamental judgements. Paradoxically, while we spend most of our time crafting process and strategy, it’s the inner lives of our team that really steer the iceberg.
How to Manage Change:
So what does this have to do with change? For change to be successful, it needs to go deep. It needs to impact the bottom depths of the ice, and we need to approach the bottom differently than the top. We know how to affect change on the top of the iceberg. Brainstorming new strategies and putting the structure in place to support them is our managerial default.
Changing the visible elements will give you all the appearances of making real change, but you won’t see any sustained results. The iceberg will continue to be pulled in the direction it always has been, pulled by the weight beneath the surface. If you want deep change, you’ve got to go deep. As you dive beneath the surface, you’re going to need different tactics to change the levels of culture.
Next week, we’ll look at how to tackle each stage of the ‘berg, from the cerebral top to the dark bottom. To implement effective change, you have to go deep.