A group of individuals are standing around, symbolizing an organization's culture.

Organizational culture is defined as the underlying beliefs, assumptions, values, and ways of interacting that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization. Like any organizational system, culture is a living and fluid entity that is influenced by leadership and strategy.

According to Daniel Coyle, author of The Culture Code: “While successful culture can look and feel like magic, the truth is that it’s not. Culture is a set of living relationships working towards a shared goal. It’s not something you are. It’s something you do.”

In 2019, organizational development consulting firm Brighter Strategies is focusing on culture – specifically the creation or evolution of positive workplace culture that improves teamwork, raises morale, reduces stress, increases efficiency, and enhances collaboration and performance.

Culture creation: Building a firm foundation

With a new year comes fresh strategic priorities. Now is an ideal time to work on creating a positive culture in your agency. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Identify your desired culture. First, describe the organizational norms that you wish to uphold. Then, using your mission as a guide post, write new values that you envision your agency emulating. These values should align with and support your existing business strategy and performance goals. Describe in detail the behaviors employees will exhibit and the practices the organization will endorse if these values become part of your culture.
  • Model culture norms. Influencing culture is not possible without the buy-in, support, and action of your leaders. Not only should leaders be involved in culture creation conversations, they must commit to communicating and living the norms you’ve identified. For example, recruit senior leaders to teach culture trainings for new and existing employees.
  • Hold employees accountable. Incorporate goals into employees’ performance scorecards to ensure they are held accountable for living the organization’s culture norms. Reward employees who routinely show desired values with compensation increases and public recognition. When your staff sees that culture is celebrated, they will be more likely to buy in.

Culture evolution: Growing to the next level

If you have done significant work to build a positive workplace culture, your goal this year may be culture evolution. This process begins with an assessment.

Like any operational audit, a culture assessment should involve all relevant organizational stakeholders, such as individuals served, employees, funders, Board members, and community representatives. These people can help determine if your agency’s norms, philosophy, and values hinder or support its intended impact.

Here are some sample questions to pose to stakeholders during a culture assessment:

  • Does the organization’s current culture reflect its mission, vision, and values?
  • In what programs, products, and services does the organization invest most of its resources?
  • Are stakeholders recognized for exemplifying the culture? If so, how?
  • What is the organization’s reputation, both internally and externally?
  • Does the organization’s culture support its strategic outlook?

This audit is part of your commitment to continuous improvement and serves as a “culture check-in.” Summarize emerging themes and outline a simple action plan to give your culture a face lift.

Culture influence: Beginning the journey now

Taking small steps to influence your culture today can have a big impact tomorrow. Just like with any personal resolution – to lose weight or learn a new skill, for example – the hardest part is getting started. The same is true for culture change. Don’t wait until you have a grand plan in place to act.

A good first step is to open the pathways of communication in your organization. Explain to stakeholders what you expect from them as co-influencers of your culture. Make clear the training and development opportunities that will help get them there.

As you take your first move toward positive culture transformation, could you use some extra guidance, a trusted partner, or simply a jump start? Brighter Strategies is here to help. Contact us today to learn more.