In light of the above, what can controllers do about it? Each and every one can – and should – try to influence managers on an individual basis. This requires communication skills and a plan for how to handle specific managers. Some find that arguments help, while others make a point of stressing that other managers approve of their suggestion. They need to collect good examples and references. It may also be helpful to be proactive in creating data transparency, providing information not only as and when requested but making it generally available, thereby allowing managers to gain new perspectives from new information. At the same time, controllers must avoid flooding managers with too much information.
As far as the controlling function as a whole is concerned, it is important to present one face to the outside world, to close ranks, and to speak a common language within the community. Moreover, this close exchange and cohesion is particularly important when playing the “hierarchy card”, i.e. there is a problem to be solved at a higher hierarchical level.
The implementation of cultural change presents a much more difficult problem. An appropriate first step could be for the controlling community to define a concept for actively communicating the three elements of controlling culture: goal orientation, transparency, and constructive critique. An increasing number of examples of this can be found in practice. The next step should be familiar to most controllers: If goal orientation, transparency, and constructive critique are so important, then it is worth trying to translate them from a colloquial context to a more defined — or even measureable – theoretical framework. This process has to establish a common understanding on a number of questions. In the case of transparency, for example, it must be clarified which aspects (costs, revenues, payments, different facets of the competitive position, other non-financial information, characteristics and behavior of managers, interaction behavior, networks) refer to which metrics, and whether it involves subjectively perceived transparency and/or an objective transparency measure. If there is sufficiently broad understanding, a decision is required on whether transparency should be measured, which would mean developing appropriate measures to do so. At this point, at very latest, managers should agree to the measures and be aware of how important the topic is for the company.
It is essential that there is a solid basis of common understanding in order to agree and adopt the specific measures required for developing the three cultural cornerstones. For example, measures for promoting a culture of constructive critique may include training courses (e.g., to teach appropriate ways and tools for communicating criticism), specially designed recruiting processes, or standardized “escalation strategies ”. Practical examples for achieving transparency could include easing access restrictions and actively marketing existing information, but also drawing attention to this in everyday management situations, so that any decisions reached are based on facts (evidence-based management).