Three Reasons Your Culture May Be Struggling

Compelling vision and core values defined? Check.

Communication and alignment sessions with everyone? Check.

Updated hiring and on-boarding processes to determine fit and ensure that new hires are on-board with your culture? Yep ... you did that, too.

So why is the culture you want for your organization struggling to take root and grow? The answer could lie in one or all of the following three areas:

1. There is not a clear connection between the values on your wall and the results to be achieved.
Does your values statement include words such as respect, integrity, diversity, and teamwork? If so, it may be difficult to connect generically agreed upon words with the work to be done. For instance, the correlation between integrity and ethical behavior is relatively easy to make. The connection to product and service quality or work performance may be less obvious.

You can overcome this challenge by regularly engaging your teams in on-going discussions about the application of your values in real life. Managers, supervisors, and team leads should ask their teams to identify, discuss, and celebrate real-life examples. This serves the dual purpose of continually keeping the values front and center in everyone's mind while educating about the real-world application of terms that can be viewed as more about personal behavior than performance.

2. First-line leaders may not be on board or equipped to help you sustain the culture.
Is there a designated "keeper of the culture" in your organization? For many, the primary source for articulating the culture rests with senior leadership. Other organizations have vested that responsibility with Human Resources or perhaps a "Culture Team."

Leadership owning the responsibility for articulating and reinforcing the culture sends a powerful message from the top about the type of organization you want to create. Likewise, assigning the coordination and management of culture-affirming activities to a group ensures a level of consistency and focus that keeps the message alive.

The supervisor and/or team leader is, however, the primary interpreter of what the culture means in real life and the organization's commitment to it. After all, they may only occasionally see their senior leaders. Likewise, they may come to view any group that is "responsible" for the culture as activity and event planners.

Your investment of energy and resources with first-line leaders to create buy-in for the desired culture and competency to reinforce it will pay lasting dividends. Also, don't forget to provide time for and reinforce your expectation that first-line leaders actively talk about and coach behavior and performance consistent with the culture.

3. People receive mixed messages when the organization is under stress.
Does your commitment to open communication suffer when crisis occurs? Are daily team meetings sacrificed when there is a customer deadline? Does your staff ever feel that your default response to a customer complaint is to blame rather than support them?

The true test of your commitment to the culture is your performance when things go wrong or become difficult. Your commitment to the culture in challenging times creates a legend that is infused into the fabric of your collective experience. It is when your team starts to believe that you are serious about changing the way things are done.

Every unified culture change effort begins with clearly articulated values. It continues with communication, training, and updating processes such as talent acquisition and development. It may even incorporate regular employee feedback. The best efforts are continuous and intentional in their efforts to translate the words on the wall into performance and behavior that drives positive results.

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations achieve positive results in a world of accelerating change. To bring Randy to your organization or event, visit , email, or call 972.980.9857.