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A small but symbolic change

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger
white and orange soccer ball on green grass field

Day two of his new job in charge and Jurgen Klopp notices in the pre match warm up that the opposition look better turned out and professional than his team.

They were looking good in their dark blue training kit, their warm up routine made them look organised, prepared, ready for action.The next day he called a meeting, shared his observation. Match day the change was visible.

Getting the team to look smarter in their pre match warm up kit did not change the culture of the organisation or turn a club whose success were all in the past into world beaters. It did however announce that the way things were done was going to change ,  that from this point on there would be attention to detail, and on and off the field the organisation would project professionalism.

When you read about organisations that have been turned around it is amazing how often the Chief executive will share a little anecdote like this as if to underline the point that analysis should not focus so much on the obvious big changes  like the much publicised reorganisation, the innovative marketing strategy or the investment in new technology. The message is that it Is cultural change that makes the difference and this starts with the small stuff.

The symbolic change is important in signalling things are going to be done differently from now on however symbolic changes need to be followed up with substantial real changes in behaviour and real changes in thinking. This is the point where the leader/chief executive explains their vision, what they want the future to look like and what they expect from managers and staff to achieve this vision.

The senior management team then come up with strategies that make clear the role of different parts of the organisation in getting there. Which in turn leads to targets which reflect the role individuals will play. But it all starts with a small but symbolic change.

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