How to refresh your organisation's culture efforts

Carolyn Taylor


Yesterday I had a conversation with an OD manager who used this word to describe his organisation"s goal in relation to their efforts on culture next year.  "We need to refresh our culture and to re-engage people in our purpose for wanting to improve it".  Given so many companies have dedicated effort already to building values and behaviour that suits their goals and strategies, there is likely to come a moment where it seems important to refresh.

How to refresh your organisation's culture transformation

As always, in thinking through my response to his comments, I reverted to my basic framework of walking the talk.  To refresh their organisation, leaders will have to refresh themselves.  This 'refreshing' process will happen on two levels:  Reviewing the belief on the business value being created, and reconnecting with the individual passion to lead a change in culture.

1. Reviewing the business value. 

When an organisation starts to focus attention on culture, the business case for doing so is usually well defined.  A change in market conditions, a failure to meet certain performance standards, a new strategy.  Over time, initiatives to align culture to meet these conditions take on a life of their own, as any complex project does.  A training program, for example, may be rolled out to large numbers of people.  Leaders can loose touch, during the course of all this activity, with the original driver for the required change.  And, with time, the new strategy may become business as usual.

It is valuable at this point to pause and review how the businesss requires people to behave.  Is it still relevant that we focus on culture?  Which elements of culture are now most important?  Check Chapter 4 of my book Walking the Talk which lays out different culture options.

2. Reconnecting with the personal vision.  

There is a point after the first or second phase of activity associated with changing culture where there can be a pause in the action, and employees look to the leaders to see whether this is "just a program" or a way of life.  The answer will depend on the leader"s values, passion and vision.  A leader who has integrated the cultural aspirations into who they are will be credible regardless of any planned, scheduled set of cultural activities.

As a cultural leader, this can be a good time to hold up the mirror.  Check with others (formally through research, or informally) how they see your behaviour.  Check with yourself whether you see culture as a task or a way of life. Consider hiring a new coach to refresh your own thinking.  A leader who continues to commit to their own personal growth will continually refresh the culture, in line with his or her own learning process.

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