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New rules for culture change

Understanding what drives culture change can make all the difference between transformations that fail and those that succeed.


With the effects of digital disruption sweeping across industries, many organizations are overhauling their strategies. Yet many have encountered a major stumbling block: their internal culture. In the past, rigid, command-and-control, top-down approaches were effective for managing employees. Today’s environment demands greater collaboration and innovation, and workers seek a flexible and purpose-driven work environment that shows up consistently across their employee experience. Such cultural transformations have hardly been smooth. Why is culture change so hard to achieve? Our research has identified the key challenges that executives must address to succeed in any cultural transformation.


Key Findings

We have studied culture transformations at numerous organizations, and our findings indicate the following:

  • Leading by doing: Top management must lead by example, but this can be difficult when the new culture requires behavioral changes that are both foreign and challenging for the executives themselves to adopt.

  • Engaging all levels: Driving change too much from the top can actually be counterproductive. For the lowest-performing change programs, the top leadership was actually quite involved in implementation, but the problem was a severe disconnect lower in the organization. The highest-performing programs involved employees at all levels of the organization in the change.

  • Showing, not saying: Employees need to know what the new behaviors will look and feel like, so they can be brought to life for everyone. In essence, the desired behaviors must be embedded into every aspect of the organization, so they will eventually become hardwired into what employees do and how they act.

The Transformation

Digital disruption is sweeping across all industries, and few organizations can a­fford to stand still. Yet many businesses overhauling their strategies have encountered a major stumbling block: their internal culture.

Strategy Workforce Culture



To make culture change stick, companies should:

  • Help executives learn new behaviors through programs such as peer coaching, peer-to-peer learning and reverse mentoring.

  • Engage leaders throughout the organization in planning and implementing culture change.

  • Consider crowdsourcing approaches to tap into how cultural changes might be implemented at the local level.

  • Embed the desired behaviors everywhere—from hiring and onboarding to performance management and rewards and recognition.

  • Break down cultural changes into smaller actionable behaviors.


Diana Barea
Diana Barea
Managing Director – Accenture Strategy,
Talent & Organization
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Yaarit Silverstone
Yaarit Silverstone
Managing Director – Accenture Strategy,
Talent & Organization
Connect with Yaarit Silverstone's Profile on LinkedIn. This opens a new window. Mail to Yaarit Silverstone. This opens a new window.

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