Culture Change At The BBC – 5 Crisis Traps To Avoid
Dame Janet Smith’s review into the Savile and Hall abuse scandal has found that 5 opportunities were missed to stop their misconduct.
The review found that the BBC culture “was deeply deferential” to celebrities and that a “culture of fear” still exists today, with employees afraid to speak up and share concerns arising in one part of the organisation with another.
A “culture of separation, competition and even hostility between different parts of the BBC” allowed not just poor behaviour but criminal activity to continue un-checked. “Staff were reluctant to speak out to their managers because they felt it was not their place to do so,” said Dame Janet.
Serious culture change is clearly needed in the organisation however the BBC needs to take care not to fall into traps that are common when leaders respond to a cultural crisis:
1. It’s all bad – there will be a huge number of positive aspects to the BBC’s culture. A good culture diagnostic will identify what’s working well, the innate strengths of the culture and how to leverage these.
2. Just publish a new set of Values – the gimmick machine often goes into over-drive in a crisis. Again, a robust audit of the current culture will get under the skin of what’s causing behaviour, the beliefs and attitudes that need to shift and how to shift them.
3. Blame leaders of the past – 70-80% of culture is created by leaders. That means that if behaviours haven’t changed, incumbent leaders may be perpetuating the culture without necessarily realising it. It takes deliberate, focused effort to cause a real shift in culture.
4. Tell people to change – telling people to behave differently is almost always short-lived. “Be open”, “Raise concerns”, “Trust us”, ring hollow when corporate memory suggests these are not safe things to do. Real culture change requires fully engaging people in change. To do this well does take longer in the early days but it pays off in the long-run.
5. Take your eye off the ball – it takes time for trust to build and for people to believe that leaders are committed to being and doing things differently themselves. Discipline is needed to fully embed a change in mindset and behaviour and reap the benefits.
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