Cultural Transformation

In organizational coaching, just as in personal coaching, a transformational approach puts the emphasis toward improving whole systems rather than solving specific problems.

Cultural transformation is a radical form of systemic change that builds on the positive energy that already exists. Instead of condemning past values, norms, beliefs and practices, we identify what is already serving the culture and find ways to expand the life force. We identify the aliveness and collective wisdom by looking deep within and discovering what is already effective in terms of economics, ecology and humanity. We then generate solutions that tap collective wisdom.

Lynn Twist does innovative work as a social entrepreneur with the Pachamama Alliance. In her book, The Soul of Money, she tells the story of the women of Dharmapuri who practiced female infanticide because they believed that “life was so horrible for a girl, and she would become such a financial burden to the family, that it was cruel to let a girl child live and more kind to kill her.” After sharing their secrets, shame and grief, they vowed to end the cycle forever. Lynn was stunned when they said, “We could not have taken this courageous step without your outside ears and eyes.”

After several days of intimate conversations, the women of Dharmapuri then turned the tables on Lynn. They asked if there were things in her home culture that overwhelmed her. Lynn shared her deep upset with the violence portrayed in American media, and how the horrible messages are exported all over the world. Looking deep into her eyes, they told her to remember that they would be there for her, to encourage her to speak out.1  

Until that moment, she had considered violence in movies mild compared to the horror of infanticide. Gratuitous violence has become so accepted in our culture that she saw it as a given, and felt hopeless as the profits from the media industry feed the appetite for violence. One can imagine people from a peaceful culture would be as horrified by media violence as we are by infanticide. The women of Dhamapuri can inspire us to look for opportunities to change our own culture.

All of this points to the value of sharing our stories of inner and outer transformation as we deepen our awareness and explore new ways of creating life-serving cultures. Beyond the ripple effect of personal transformation, taking a stand for change and leading a cultural change initiative can have a profound impact on society.

Seven Steps for Leading the People-Side of Change

The sections on Cultural Transformation and Seven Steps for Leading the People-Side of Change are adapted from Martha Lasley’s book, Facilitating with Heart.

1. Assess Readiness for Change

Take the long view and explore the relevant history of change for the group, culture or organization. Find out what made past changes successful and look for evidence that the organization can handle more change. If necessary, develop additional capacity for change.

2. Build a Case for Change

Discover the urgent crises and opportunities that get people’s attention. Study the market and competitive forces that drive the change process. Explore the implications to the bottom line. Imagine what happens if you don’t make the change.

3. Enlist a Team of Change Agents

Start by finding your highest-level change sponsors. Look for other key influencers from all levels of the organization to enlist. Recruit people who have the power to lead the change initiative and get others on board.

4. Develop a Change Communication Plan

Design the best ways to communicate the benefits and the drawbacks of the change. Describe your vision so that you empower others to contribute. Incorporate the vision of how the change serves the highest good and helps the organization thrive.

5. Manage Resistance to Change

Identify the people most likely to oppose the change and determine how you will address their needs. Anticipate the obstacles and create a plan to overcome resistance to change.

6. Build Momentum

Pay attention to the pace and tone so that people can easily absorb the changes. Build short-

term wins into the process. Define the milestones you will celebrate along the way.

7. Sustain a Culture that is Receptive to Change

Manage your continuous personal change process and model openness. Establish expectations, desired behaviors and competencies that people need to develop to support the desired changes. Sustain a culture of continuous improvement and keep the energy alive to ensure future success.2

1 Twist, Lynn & Barker, Teresa (2006). The Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources. W. W. Norton & Company.

 2 Lasley, Martha (2010). Facilitating With Heart: Awakening Personal Transformation and Social Change. Discover Press.

Excerpt from Coaching for Transformation by Lasley, Kellogg, Michaels and Brown. 

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