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A Navy SEAL's 7 Steps for Using Culture to Drive Change

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Leading significant organizational change is hard. Though well-intentioned, that's why over half of major transformation efforts fail. Why? Many reasons can include but aren't limited to a bad strategy, a weak culture lacking trust and accountability, poor communication, low levels of buy-in, change fatigue and competing priorities. But one area where many company leaders fail regularly is learning how to leverage the company culture to drive change.


As a former Navy SEAL, I can assure you that the post 9-11 Naval Special Warfare community has experienced constant change. Similarly, having led my own companies through fairly major changes - combined with thorough research - I have developed a model for Culture Driven Transformation (CDT).


What does that mean? It is a strategy for analyzing and leveraging the positive aspects of an organization's culture and using those elements to drive change. It also involves shoring up the weak aspects of the culture and simultaneously fixing the broken parts - changing the culture.


A more nimble and adaptive organization is better suited for successfully navigating the murky waters of change. But it often requires a major change in the mindsets and behaviors of the leaders - and quite frankly, the entire company.


The first step in my CDT model is to Perform a Culture Diagnostic.


Before every mission you perform in the SEAL Teams, gathering as much valuable intelligence is critical for understanding what you will be dealing with and how you plan the mission.


  • What details can we learn about the Area of Operation (AO)?
  • Who lives there?
  • How many enemy fighters can we expect on target?
  • How many non-combatants?
  • What weapons do they have?
  • Will they have a QRF (quick reaction force) nearby?
  • What resources and assets will we have at our disposal?


The more information the better, especially when you know some of the intelligence may be flawed.



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