The importance of the tipping point in culture change

Joanna Boxer
For culture change to gain momentum and stick, a tipping point needs to be reached. This threshold can be lower than organisations think, but getting there and moving beyond it requires clarity, communication, and consistency
Becoming unstoppable 

For culture change to stick you have to create  an unstoppable movement. If you watch Leadership lessons from a Dancing Guyon YouTube you will see what I mean. The footage is old, but the message is timeless. The man starts dancing on his own on a hill at a music festival in America, surrounded by people sitting down. People laugh at him to begin with, but after a while more and more people join in until a huge crowd are moving together. 

The tipping point is the point at which it takes more energy to resist a change than to participate in it. Research shows that this threshold is just 25%, which is significantly lower than most people think. However, culture change, like any behavioural shift, is difficult at the start. So, how do you get 1 in 4  of your people living and breathing your desired culture daily to break through and create that unstoppable movement? 

How to reach the tipping point

1. Clarity 
Be clear about what people need to do to join your movement. This is about clarity of not just the why, but also the what, and how? Why are we changing – what is the strategic goal that the culture change underpins? What exactly do you need your people to do differently? How do you need people to behave? You need to be specific on all of these to get your movement off the ground. 

2. Communication
Have a communications plan and drumbeat that reinforces the why, what, and how. This needs to be a focus for your Leadership Team, who need to role model the new behaviours and communicate clearly what’s expected of people. To maintain the focus and energy of the organization, it’s important you recognise stories of success and amplify these across your business. That way the message is spread much quicker and the movement is accelerated. 

3. Consistency
As a leader, you need to actively and consistently encourage others to join the movement. You need to be walking it and talking it in every interaction with your people. You’re trying to create sustainable change, so this isn’t about just getting to the tipping point – it’s about moving beyond it to encourage and embed those new behaviours and create your new culture. So, it’s imperative that you consistently role model, because otherwise it’s all too easy for people to fall back into their old ways and for any hope of change to be lost. 

Creating and unstoppable movement and creating a  tipping point is vital in culture change. and fundamental to any transformation.

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