When undergoing a major change in your business model, the way you introduce the model, and make the necessary cultural changes, has to be done with very direct messages communicated and acted on repeatedly. Major initiatives are not best accomplished by incremental changes.

Price Pritchett & Ron Pound wrote a hard-hitting guide about managing the cultural change process, “High Velocity Culture Change, A Handbook for Managers”. I’ve read this book a few times, and each time I find myself nodding and agreeing at the premise of their arguments about how best to make those changes and make them stick.

I’ve read a pile of reviews on Amazon.com that say it is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad book. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • “Helped destroy the company I was working for”
  • “unethical style, unworthy "insights", unscientific results that promote unstable behaviors.”
  • “promotes such ineffective methods of employee development”

However, I disagree

I think Pritchett & Pound have taken a stand about a very direct approach to culture change. While you may not like some of the words they use to describe their ideas such as destroy, disregard, flout, and destabilize, they are definitive and descriptive of what needs to happen when it’s time to radically change behaviors.

They also talk about caring, commitment, vision, and communication. All of the effort is working toward results that will benefit the whole.

Leaders have to make difficult decisions – that’s why they have the positions and the titles. If they’re not willing to make those difficult calls in support of the whole vs. the comfort of a few, then it might be time to bring in someone who can.

If you take an easy approach to make a few changes here and there in hopes of totally changing the organization – you’re fooling yourself.

It's not all black & white

Kevin tells people that when learning something new, we start from a black and white perspective and then learn it well enough to find our own shade of gray. That’s the approach you need to take with culture change, and that’s why Pritchett & Pound’s harsh approach makes sense.

As Gary Vaynerchuck takes time in his recent book, “The Thank You Economy” to explain “why I speak in absolutes”, it’s

“because if I give you an inch, you’ll run a mile with it…I’d rather shock you into paying attention, and admit later that business rarely requires an all-or-nothing approach, than take the chance that you won’t take the situation seriously enough.”

Leadership = respecting others

I just expect leaders to be smart enough to know that being mean, antagonizing, and demoralizing to their team is not going to get the positive and sustainable results they are likely trying to achieve. For those “leaders” who do believe that approach is good management, then shame on them and they deserve the results they get.

The rest of us can read between the lines to find the ideas that best fit our organizations and move ahead with our own shade of gray.

If you’re facing a shift in your business model, you’re also facing a shift in culture. In order for the culture to take root and deliver the results you want to see, I recommend you start from that black and white perspective. And read the controversial book by Pritchett & Pound.