MIT Sloan Management Review Article on Overcoming Obstacles to Successful Culture Change

  • 5m
  • Gaurav Gupta, John Kotter, Vanessa Akhtar
  • MIT Sloan Management Review
  • 2021

As businesses work through the complexity of return-to-office strategies and determine how to manage a forever-hybrid workforce, the need to cultivate — and preserve — effective organizational culture is on everyone’s minds. Driving intentional culture is a critical element of an adaptable organization that can respond to emerging challenges and opportunities at today’s fast pace. As the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty and complexity that have accompanied it have clearly demonstrated, organizations need cultures that encourage flexibility, adaptability, and speed.

But despite shared recognition of the importance and role of culture, there is very little consensus on how to effectively change it. Typical approaches to culture change — relying on leaders to define the culture and cascade it throughout the organization, or fully outsourcing the responsibility of shaping and building culture to an HR group — rarely produce real results. These attempts often face major hurdles in the typical management-centric organization, which leans toward stability and reliability rather than change and agility, and whose leaders may view change as a threat.

About the Author

John Kotter is the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School and chairman of the management consulting firm Kotter. Vanessa Akhtar, Ed.D., is a director at Kotter who works on the firm’s most complex transformation engagements and helps drive research and development. Gaurav Gupta, a director at Kotter and cofounder of Ka Partners, has global business experience translating strategy into successful implementation in diverse industries. Their new book, Change: How Organizations Achieve Hard-to-Imagine Results in Uncertain and Volatile Times (Wiley, 2021), details how leaders can leverage challenges and opportunities to make sustainable workplace changes in a rapidly accelerating world.

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  • MIT Sloan Management Review Article on Overcoming Obstacles to Successful Culture Change