The dangers of culture change efforts

The Woodside culture chane program is over and some of those involved wonder whether it pushed to hard.

The quote is from Helen Trinca’s introduction to her article in the this month’s BOSS magazine. This was a lighthouse iniative[pdf] sponsored by former Woodside Petroleum CEO, John Akehurst and facilitated by McKinsey & Co program founder Michael Rennie
Internal Woodside program leader, David Rowell, reflects that

My feeling was we had pushed too hard … some people got left behind and became cynical, or they became extreme, they became evangelists for the program. Many of those [extremists] were not under our control and took it too far.

Rowell left Woodside about 18 months ago and McKinsey is nowhere to be seen having reportedly earned $30 million in fees for themselves and other consultants on the program.
It seems another sad reflection of organisations wanting results too fast. Nature says it takes 100 years to grow a mature alpine eucalyptus, but that’s too slow for boardrooms. “We have to be able to do better than nature” they say. Better than God? A sympton perhaps of false sense of omnipotence that comes from living in the rarified atmosphere of the board room.
Changing culture takes time. Sure, sometimes we need to change practices more quickly than we can change culture, but it we want to change culture and grow a lasting great company we have to give it the time it takes while making progress all the time.

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