“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw

How to build a “happy to change” culture in your workplace in three practical steps


Acknowledgement  Author: Diane Gray of Change Play Pty Ltd (, editing CCI


Problems inevitably arise in a workplace; they are a natural part of every business, and will appear in one way or another. Without them, we personally and collectively would not grow, we wouldn’t perceive and create new opportunities, and we wouldn’t find new and better ways to work together.

Yet some problems are created because the purpose, the values and standards of a company are not clear to the people who work in it. They aren’t attuned to the big picture of what the company is seeking to achieve, or what’s important in the actions needed to achieve it. Without this, the solution (and options chosen to support the solution) will likely hinder the chances of any change being sustainable over the longer term.

What is even scarier is when the business owner, CEO and senior executives have also lost sight of the purpose and values. Caught up in being busy, meeting high pressure demands, seeking to stay ahead of the game – all these can lead to the executive navigating the whole company off course.

A natural fall out from there is a strangling of the enthusiasm, creativity, and innovation of the team which is replaced with frustration, growing resentment, and feelings of isolation – a place where it is safer to stay in the box of strict job roles, confined by a wall of ‘Do Not Deviate’, and protected by the adage ‘It’s not my job’.

Then when change is required because a problem has arisen (maybe when there is a down turn in sales, or profits, or a high turnover in staff that needs immediate attention) top executives are left scratching their heads as employees resist to change and dig their heels in to doing anything outside their position descriptions.

This is NOT an environment that allows people to be resilient and happy, to make changes with creative, enthusiastic and innovative attitudes, individually or as a team.


What can you do to reduce this resistance?

To start reducing this resistance, a major key is developing clarity on the purpose of the company, its values and its standards. To many this will sound obvious and cliché, and you may have heard it plenty of times before.  Yet why are so many workplaces still struggling so much with change?

If the attitude from senior management and high level decision makers is blasé towards the purpose, values and standards (often it’s a box they’ve ticked, and moved on from) then this is reflected in the company culture.  And that means that employees will have little respect for the purpose, values and standards, and little respect for the those in executive decision making roles. 


“Problems are not the problem in themselves. It is how we go about solving them or preventing them in the first place that determines the success of a solution.”

Diane Gray

Instead they will develop a sub-culture, one they feel they have some control over. Under these conditions, people will default to controlling the thing closest to them – themselves and their job.  It’s a survival mechanism and it becomes a way of work life that spreads to each corner of the company and will quickly be adopted by new hires, despite their initial enthusiasm to do things differently.

It develops an US versus THEM mentality.  

Strong competition often develops between levels of management and frontline workers. Different cultures have informally formed which become intrenched and means lots of opposition and internal warring when changes need to be made.

And there is enough competition in the market place without wasting time and energy on internal company culture battles.


Three practical steps to building a culture where people are happy with change:

  1. Be clear on the direction of the company, starting with the purpose of its existence:
    • Why does the company exist?
    • Who does it serve?
    • Why is it important to clients or customers that your company is here and thriving?
    • What would happen to your clients or customers if you were not here?
  1. Create the culture you want in your workplace to serve the company direction and purpose. This means identifying the values – the core values that matter most – and the standards of thinking and behaviour that reflect how the values are lived:
    • What are the values of the company – the ones that matter most?
    • How do they show up in the workplace?
    • What are the standards of thinking and behaviour that reflect how the work is done?
    • Do the standards move the company in the direction it needs to go in?
  1. Create the language that reflects the purpose and culture of the workplace. This step is critical to building a sustainable company culture. Language is a very strong, powerful medium to bring people together so they feel part of the group.
    • What are the key words that describe the purpose, values and standards?
    • What opportunities are there to use the language in everyday conversations?
    • How are these conversations influencing the company culture?
    • How are they moving the company in the desired direction?


Be aware, these three steps are not steps you take, then you’re done. It is not a case of answer these and then you will have the ‘happy to change’ culture you desire.  They are practical because it is a must to actively live them every day, in the language which is attuned to the company’s purpose.

Only when living the values and ‘working on purpose’ – when everyone is unified by the purpose, values and standards of the company – will the culture be ready and willing for any change, .

Never underestimate the power of company culture – it is the number one influencer to sustainable change and business success.

Author: Diane Gray of Change Play Pty Ltd (

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