How do you change the different sub-cultures of several different teams at the same time?

One of the things I have always had a huge interest in is an organisation’s culture and how it impacts on an organisation, on teams and on individuals.

During my career I’ve worked in many teams – some of these teams have been formal, recognised teams. Others have been project teams. Some have been virtual teams. Some have been made up 20-30 people – whilst some have been 3-4 people. Some have covered a wide range of different tasks with only a single, consistent strand between all the individuals. Others have been focused on a smaller number of tasks within a much more defined brief.

But one of the similarities that they have all had is that they have all had their own, unique culture – what I refer to as a sub-culture – within the wider culture of the organisation. 

And this has always intrigued me about being a leader of one of these small teams within a large organisation. Creating a sub-culture that is positive, benefits the team and the organisation, and which supports the team and the organisation to achieve has always been something that I have worked on – even when I wasn’t in a managerial role in the team. 

But more recently, I have been spending more time thinking about –

How does a new leader of a large organisation come in and change the culture, for the better, throughout the entire organisation? 

I can see how a small team can change its culture over a period of time, but how do you get that to replicate throughout an existing organisation that is made up of many small teams and with many employees who have been in the organisation for a long time?

Creating a new organisation as an entrepreneur gives you the benefit of creating the culture you want from the beginning. But, coming into an existing organisation with existing norms, a shared history of what has happened before, and a workforce that may not want to change, is a very different challenge. 

And I don’t have the answers to this. 

Yes I’ve read lots about it, I’ve listened to lots of videos by people who have done it, and I gave had several chats with very senior staff from organisations – but, I have never managed to pick under the general ‘change the organisational culture’ label.

So here’s a question that I hope you can help me with – 

How, as a new leader of an existing large organisation, do you bring the different sub-cultures of the different teams into the wider organisational culture?

I’d love to hear what you think, what works and any lessons you have learnt on the way. 

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