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Want to change your culture? Start with your projects

Colin Ellis | Feb. 4, 2015
Culture change is hard, that's why few organisations take it on. There's a reliance on new people coming in to an organisation to drive change in a way that hasn't been seen before and yet all too often those people will come up against brick walls.

These people should be given the chance to transform your organisation and they can do that through sponsoring or managing your projects. Leadership is a choice and rewarding it (either financially or through active engagement in larger initiatives) will help others to make that choice as well.


Some organisations that I've worked with have gone to great lengths to describe the behaviours expected of their staff. Project Leaders can ensure that where those behaviours are demonstrated, they're praised and rewarded.

Conversely, where they aren't demonstrated they're called out immediately. It requires strong leadership, but then so does changing a culture. If your company hasn't articulated the required behaviours, then let a project take the lead in demonstrating what good looks like.


The days of 'one size fits all' cumbersome ways of working are at an end. Regardless of the processes your organisation has for delivering you should give your projects the opportunity to challenge and find a better way to do things.

Does it take six months to get a business case written and signed off? Challenge your projects to produce a similar level of quality in two months, calling out where it hits a roadblock. The millennial workforce won't accept inefficiency in the way that you currently work, so if you don't adapt, you run the risk of losing the very people who can make the difference you seek.

Read more:REST Industry Super finds value in software-as-a-service


I'm continually dismayed by the complexity of communications released to staff. Acronyms, technical jargon, long emails, 100 page documents. All of these things are of our own making and we can change them all.

Simplicity of communication requires a big change in behaviours, but your projects can take the lead here by being more humanistic from the start.

More face-to-face contact, fewer emails and formal memos; more one-page summaries, fewer 20-page presentations; more simple language that everyone can understand, fewer acronyms. Resist the urge to give your project a fancy name, call it what it is and let that set the tone for the organisation.


It's been almost four years since the iPad was launched and since then, the market has been flooded with many tools to transform our working lives. Yet we're still printing out emails and 40-page reports to distribute at meetings.

If your organisation hasn't embraced this technology yet, then equip your projects with it and let them prove the cost and time savings to justify the spend.

Again, it will require a behavioural change that the project leadership will need to uphold, but very quickly everything — and I do mean everything — will be at your fingertips, without the need for huge colour print runs on the night before a meeting.


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