TRUST: Culture Is Walking The Walk

...culture change can’t be achieved through top-down mandate. It lives in the collective hearts and habits of people and their shared perception of “how things are done around here.” Someone with authority can demand compliance, but they can’t dictate optimism, trust, conviction, or creativity.

Bryan Walker & Sarah A. Soule - HBR

Culture is like the wind. It is invisible, yet its effect can be seen and felt. When it is blowing in your direction, it makes for smooth sailing. When it is blowing against you, everything is more difficult.

For organizations seeking to become more adaptive and innovative, culture change is often the most challenging part of the transformation. Innovation demands new behaviors from leaders and employees that are often antithetical to corporate cultures, which are historically focused on operational excellence and efficiency.

But culture change can’t be achieved through top-down mandate. It lives in the collective hearts and habits of people and their shared perception of “how things are done around here.” Someone with authority can demand compliance, but they can’t dictate optimism, trust, conviction, or creativity.

At IDEO, we believe that the most significant change often comes through social movements, and that despite the differences between private enterprises and society, leaders can learn from how these initiators engage and mobilize the masses to institutionalize new societal norms.

Dr. Reddy’s: A Movement-Minded Case Study

One leader who understands this well is G.V. Prasad, CEO of Dr. Reddy’s, a 33-year-old global pharmaceutical company headquartered in India that produces affordable generic medication. With the company’s more than seven distinct business units operating in 27 countries and more than 20,000 employees, decision making had grown more convoluted and branches of the organization had become misaligned. Over the years, Dr. Reddy’s had built in lots of procedures, and for many good reasons. But those procedures had also slowed the company down.

Prasad sought to evolve Dr. Reddy’s culture to be nimble, innovative, and patient-centered. He knew it required a journey to align and galvanize all employees. His leadership team began with a search for purpose. Over the course of several months, the Dr. Reddy’s team worked with IDEO to learn about the needs of everyone, from shop floor workers to scientists, external partners, and investors. Together they defined and distilled the purpose of the company, paring it down to four simple words that center on the patient: “Good health can’t wait.”

But instead of plastering this new slogan on motivational posters and repeating it in all-hands meetings, the leadership team began by quietly using it to start guiding their own decisions. The goal was to demonstrate this idea in action, not talk about it. Projects were selected across channels to highlight agility, innovation, and customer centricity. Product packaging was redesigned to be more user-friendly and increase adherence. The role of sales representatives in Russia was recast to act as knowledge hubs for physicians, since better physicians lead to healthier patients. A comprehensive internal data platform was developed to help Dr. Reddy’s employees be proactive with their customer requests and solve any problems in an agile way. READ MORE