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Culture is a practice, not a project

I used to be terrible at gardening. I mean really awful.

My garden looked like the gnomes had had their own miniature Glastonbury but forgot to empty the septic loos.

So every Spring, I’d ring up my local landscape gardener and arrange for an army of horticulturalists to descend for a chaotic few days, brandishing chainsaws, expensive new shrubs, industrial quantities of weed killer and several tons of manure.

And it seemed totally worth it…. For the first few weeks, everything looked marvellous. So good, that I hung up the wellies and returned to my rightful place on the sofa.

But when I next looked, the new plants were wilting, the weeds were coming back, the flowers were covered in greenfly.

And tragic to admit it, but I was a bit crushed. All that time, expense and effort, and it felt like I was further back than when I started.

I see the same thing happening when companies go through culture change. They splash out on big transformation projects, buy lots of shiny new ‘things’, hire large external teams to drive massive change over a short period. And yet few months after ‘implementation’, they’re right back where they started. But with less money and a lot more frustration.

Now I make sure I spend just an hour every week in my garden. Stay on top of the weeds. Water the plants. Trim the shrubs to encourage them to grow.

And I’m starting to see real, consolidated progress. Fewer weeds, healthier plants, no tripped-out gnomes.

The message? Big, expensive, time-bound culture change projects that introduce tons of change, use lots of new tools, delivered by a small army of external ‘consultants’, rarely work. Effective progress comes from small, simple, frequent effort by the same people that live and breathe that culture every day.

Culture change is about building the human habits that drive success. Good habits come with practice. Culture is a practice, not a project. We’d all do well to remember that.

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