You hear a lot about a cultural revolution or an organizational transformation, but Kevin Oakes has a different take on how to frame your efforts. The author of The Culture Renovation suggests that you will lessen the resistance to the change if you speak about it in terms of a renovation instead, likening it to bringing a historic house up to code with technology, electrical power, etc. You still keep what gives the house its character, but you make it better.

In a podcast with Brené Brown, Oakes talks about the essential strategy of figuring out what to keep. It can be a tough call to know what to let go of and what to carry forward, but ascertaining the good and reminding people of what you are preserving helps the organization make progress. As in a renovation, we typically focus on what is new, but for a change effort to be successful you need to explicitly point out what will remain the same.

Oakes outlines 18 researched strategies that can serve as a handbook for those involved in a change effort (and who isn’t these days?). They follow a structure of Plan, Build, and Maintain — and whether you read the book or not, the renovation analogy can be a useful framework for any innovation. Too often, the Maintain element is forgotten, and “this old house” falls into disrepair again.

The next time you want to make changes, set out to implement a renovation. More people can agree that updating is a good thing — whether it be a new coat of paint, faster wifi, or a whole new kitchen — and you’re apt to get more buy-in than if you trigger their fears of losing everything they know.

The Culture Renovation by Kevin Oakes, 2020
Dare to Lead podcast — Brené Brown with Kevin Oakes, January 11, 2021

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