BY EILEEN M. MURRAY, MM, CFRE, CAE, AND SARAH TANCREDI
STAFF TRAINING REQUIRES A SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENT OF BOTH TIME AND MONEY — ESPECIALLY
WHEN IT’S PROVIDED ACROSS THE ORGANIZATION.
WHEN ITS ULTIMATE GOAL IS NOT ONLY SKILL DEVELOPMENT, BUT ALSO CULTURAL CHANGE, THE STAKES
ARE EVEN HIGHER AND THE CHALLENGES EVEN
As the following case study from the American Academy of
Dermatology demonstrates, however, with a thoughtful, step-by-step approach and enough patience to carefully manage
the process, training your organization for cultural change can
position your association for continued growth and long-term
AAD decided it needed cultural change when its leaders evaluated the organization for effectiveness and efficiency. What
they found — and what an employee opinion survey subsequently supported — was that the association’s departments
were operating in isolation from one another as silos, which
was hurting productivity.
To solve the problem, AAD knew it needed to replace its
hierarchical organizational structure with a matrix organizational structure that facilitated cooperation, trust and communication among departments. Because a matrix organizational
structure supports horizontal flow of authority rather than vertical — it pulls together into teams employees from different
functional areas, without removing them from their respective
positions — it requires new support mechanisms and new
AAD understood from the start that building those new
mechanisms and behaviors would require a multi-year effort
aimed at opening up its isolated functional operations in
order to encourage a supportive, deeply ingrained culture of
The first step AAD took toward initiating cultural change was
seeking support from top management. AAD’s executive leadership was committed to building a high-performing organization
and understood that to do so, individual departments could no
longer own the association’s major operations.
Staff also gave input and contributed to decisions about the
organization-wide training effort, which began with directors,
who were enrolled at the outset in a leadership development
program. During that program, directors drafted their definition of
a culture that produces interdepartmental deliverables, explores
the adoption of a leadership style that fosters teamwork and
collaboration, motivates staff to excel and promotes effective
results. Having defined their ideal culture, directors were then
asked to identify specific leadership behaviors and expectations
required to fulfill it. There was also an explicit discussion about
the role of leadership in initiating cultural change.
According to Cynthia Aaronson, an organizational consultant
from Harper College for businesses, involving people in the deci-sion-making process from the very beginning is key in any broad
training or cultural change initiative. AAD took this to heart.