Identify the lynchpin of your culture

Jerome Parisse-Brassens

Have you ever played Rubik’s cube or any magic cube? They seem to have made a comeback with more complicated arrangements and sizes. I remember trying to solve the puzzle when I was a kid and only being able to do so after a friend of mine showed me the trick. All I had to do was to understand the core movement required and the rest became easy. In no time, I could rebuild the cube. 


The same is true for culture. At Walking the Talk we call “lynchpin” the core movement of the Rubik’s cube. Looking at various definitions available online, lynchpin is defined as “one that serves to hold together parts or elements that exist or function as a unit (Meriam-Webster) or “a person or thing vital to an enterprise or organization” (Google). When conducting a culture diagnostic for my clients, what I often find is that there is one or two behaviours that determine all the others. Once I have discovered what this behaviour is, all other behaviours make a lot of sense. I call this the “lynchpin behaviour”. Identifying the lynchpin behaviour is key to shifting your culture, because it is the key focus for change – it may need reinforcing, shifting, or replacing. 

In our search for the cultural lynchpin, we go one step further. 

You may be aware of the iceberg model that describes how our visible behaviours (what is above the surface of the water) are underpinned by what is not visible (what can be found under the surface of the water). This includes beliefs, emotions, attitudes and values. At Walking the Talk we work with organisational beliefs to shift cultures. Those beliefs, usually shared by the majority of employees, are the source of many behaviours. By identifying the beliefs and working on shifting them, you get to behaviour change faster. This is why it is crucial to look for the lynchpin belief in a culture diagnostic. I sometimes compare the lynchpin belief with the one word in crosswords, which, once you have found it, solves the whole puzzle. My recommendation is therefore to search for the lynchpin beliefs and behaviours of your organisation’s culture, because they will be the target for change.

Here are some examples from clients.

A client in the Telecommunications industry found that “More is better” was their core belief. Because people believed that you needed to be busy to be valued and that it was important to always do more, they were piling up projects, commitments, and activities. As a consequence, they were running around and not achieving what they set out to achieve. They would say “yes” to everything, but accountability was low because they could not deliver what they had agreed to do. There was a lot of activity with not enough results, and people were worn out.

In another organisation, the lynchpin belief was “I am not valued”. This belief had been created over time, the result of a large program of change combined with financial difficulties and very ambitious goals. Employees had a can-do mindset and were committed to the company, but this belief was starting to seriously impact their engagement levels. The lynchpin behaviour was “not ask others for input”. To start shifting culture, the company changed behaviours, systems and symbols and showed they cared.

Lynchpin beliefs and behaviours are unique to each organisation. Find yours and you will find the way to sustainable culture change.

Do you have any lynchpin behaviours and values to share? I’d love to hear them.


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