Is it possible to produce change in a strong company culture?
The answer is "Yes", but you have to be strategic and patient about your approach. Remember most organizations are still "vertical", so here is a plan of attack that proactively influences from the bottom to the top:
1) Research & Learn
Start by identifying the root of the problem you are trying to solve. You can't attack the problem until you know exactly what it is. Research case studies on your topic (every problem has existed before). Observe the company culture through the behaviors of veteran workers. Once you have brainstormed some possible solutions proceed to step two.
2) Ask for Feedback
Next, approach co-workers and share your ideas. See what their responses are. Use their praise and criticism to sharpen your formula. Think of this as a refining stage. Different perspectives provide new angles to construct a solution. When your concept is improved and ready to execute, move to the buy-in stage.
3) Build Alliances
Now that you've solidified a strategy, you've got to recruit people to share your perspective. For example, if you are going to a meeting and know the participants beforehand, meet with each person individually prior to gauge their interest level. This way you can predict how people will respond during the meeting and adjust your proposition accordingly. Once you have built a strong backing, it's time for the final frontier.
4) Pitch Solutions
I always tell my clients, anyone can walk into their boss' office and complain, but what leaders want to hear is solutions. Most likely they're aware the problem exists, they just prefer to ignore it. They have enough on their plate, they want to hear what YOU will do about it. If you approach leadership with solutions and are willing to take initiative to implement your plans, leaders listen.
Change is hard. We are creatures of habit. Traditional culture is tough to break. Know this before you go into battle. Prepare your mind. Even with all your rehearsal, you cannot control the outcome. If you want to move up the corporate ladder, be warned there is much work ahead. Do your homework, learn from your community and solve people's problems! That is being a catalyst for change.