Culture change: What makes it stick?

Anthony O’Reilly (, is a founder of O’Reilly Advisors LLC in Newton, Massachusetts, USA, helping organizations accelerate transformational change using the discipline of controls. The author was the first Chief Ethics Officer at State Street Corporation, a Global Bank. Previously, he served as Head of Professional Practices at Siemens, AG, and prior to this, as a Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The first two articles in this three-part series examined how to get started on a culture transformation[1] and some important moments each transformation must pass through.[2] In this piece, we explore the most critical—and often overlooked—aspect of culture change: making it stick. Organizations often launch change programs with fanfare and sometimes even bolt on a control mechanism to reinforce it. But all too often, the initiative fails to deliver the heady expectations laid out for it, and the momentum soon fades. Why this is, and what we can do to deliver the promised returns, are the basis for this article. Again, this is based on my own observations from first-hand involvement in three very different culture change programs: during a merger, following a reputational disaster, and responding to a CEO’s request for help.

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