What are you doing to influence your culture…TODAY?

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast, 'excellence' for lunch, and everything else for dinner."

-Peter Drucker

The "C Word"

Many stay away from it. Many are sick of hearing about it.

What’s the “C Word”? CULTURE.

FACT: You either manage your culture, or your culture manages you.

Consider the four things every organization or team must focus upon: Reliability, Efficiency, Productivity, and Safety (REPS). Despite the fact that each of these is rife with priorities that can directly conflict with the others, e.g., safety vs production, a healthy culture melds them into 'one team' synchronization.

Rather than typically conflicting priorities and agendas, synergy is achieved. ‘Fires’ diminish. ‘Us-vs-them’ dissipates. Modified behaviors generate superior outcomes.

FACT: Culture determines results.

This is true for societies, enterprises, facilities, and work teams. A functional ‘well oiled’ culture smooths the daily running of things. It’s the symphony of reliability. It promotes precision needed for efficiency. It’s the juice underlying productivity, and proactively grows the engagement and awareness needed for safety.

Peter Drucker nailed it.


Cultures tend to evolve s-l-o-w-l-y over time. And just as each of us has the opportunity to influence our culture, we are also influenced by our culture.

Unfortunately, due to 'fires to fight' and day-to-day priorities, most leaders find themselves far too busy to focus on culture. Sound familiar? This is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. 

Without overt focus, we tend to be influenced by our culture (rather than being a force of directive influence). Unfortunately, because of the way things work in most organizations (and society), the natural evolution of culture tends to degrade over time.

A discreet example of natural ‘devolution’ was the issue discovered at the Davis Besse Nuclear Power Station in 2002, where unattended degradation of the reactor vessel head setup a near nuclear catastrophe. This near-event offers card-carrying insight into organizational entropy, which I discuss in detail in the short video, Overcoming Organizational Entropy.

Dysfunctional cultures produce disjointed and diminishing results.

FACT: As either entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial leader, YOU are an architect of culture- that is…where your culture goes from here.

As a leader, you are in a highly leveraged position to influence thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Collectively, these determine the moment-to-moment choices, actions, and interactions of the members of your team. Put these together with accepted ‘norms’, and you have…your culture.

And remember- I’m not talking about where your name resides on the org chart when I use the term leader.

MYTH: Changing culture is hard and it takes a l-o-n-g time

In addition to the ‘busyness’ of daily life, the concept of ‘culture’ tends to be a bit abstract. After all, how can you possibly measure it? On top of this, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation flying around about what it is, why it is what it is, and how to move it from where it is to where you would love it to be.

There are two predominant schools of thought on where culture change must come from.

One school says that culture change must occur ‘from the top down’. It must be led by those in senior positions of power, and driven throughout the organization. While senior people are in leveraged positions to influence, this is far from a complete answer.

Hint- you CANNOT ‘drive’ culture.

The other predominant thought is that culture must evolve ‘from the bottom up’. While organic growth and change is vital, it cannot be sustained without proper role modeling, nurturing, and sponsorship from the top.

You need both- proper leveraged influence from the top, combined with viral growth and peer leadership from ‘the bottom up’.

HOWEVER, the REAL answer is- true culture transformation comes from the inside out. And as a leader of any sort, this must begin with YOU.

TRUTH: When properly approached, changing culture is simple and can be achieved in a relatively short period of time.

Don’t believe it?

Consider the story of the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem in the 5th century B.C. Without an army, a budget, or a skilled workforce, the wall was rebuilt in 52 days.[i]

How could this possibly have been achieved? I give you the entire story (as well as a tactical approach you can put to similar use in your organization) in this video: Your Recipe for NEXT GEN Performance.

Want more [modern] examples?

Pick up a copy of Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by David Marquet, and READ it. Being an ex-Navy submariner myself, I’m particularly fond of this one.

Another exceptionally good example is It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, by D. Michael Abrashoff.

Conscious Transformation

The key to doing anything is to DECIDE what you want, and then DO something about it.

Transforming your culture is NOT rocket science. It merely takes proper vision (where you want to go), awareness, and your resolve to DO IT (watch the videos).

As leaders, you and I are continually being observed, and even judged. Your actions and your [true] intentions are screaming loudly above your head with everything you do.

Why not make a conscious choice to transform? First yourself, then your culture.

People are waiting for you to LEAD.

What are you doing to influence your culture…TODAY?

Until next time,

P.S. I'd love to hear your comments! (simply enter them below)

[i] http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/nehemiah%E2%80%93the-man-behind-the-wall/

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Leave A Reply (3 comments so far)

  1. You talk about “Culture Change” as if wanting to uproot a fundamental and secured content, of a culture that already exists!
    1. In what deeper repression, absence or substitute, will target the degradation of one’s culture, to a new content? This of the cultural change?
    2. The thought is a concentrated experienced and cultural energy. Easy to be read and not coverted. Regardless of whether is revealed.

    Steiner wrote: “Hartred -for instance- is the most vivid and charged human characteristics. As such, it is closest to THE TRUTH, than any other SELF DISCOVERY!
    While spontaneous loud laughter (not the smile) is another EXPERIENCE of thinking, the opposite of hate. This laughter (you have to know each detail of what you are attemting of) is an opening in the world. It lasts little and has the potential of spontaneous and instictive exteriorization -our mindset is exposed naked-“.

    Changing the culture, are you confident that you fully control all or any of the conventional LOGIC errorsthrough a complex and multi-layered venture, this of Culture change, undertaken by you?
    So, be sincere: Which are the major features of the New Culture that you SEEK to step in?

    In my opinion you will find difficulties with those you really need. The very intelligent people.

    • tim
      2 years ago


      Thanks for your questions and your thoughts.

      When we consider culture as the collective behaviors, actions, interactions, and accepted ‘norms’ of a group of people, it provides us with us with specific ‘targets’ of focus when seeking to change what currently ‘is’ to something different.

      I’ll address your last comment first. Based upon our experiences working within organizations to help effect culture change over the past decade, the most intelligent people have tended to be the most intrigued, and consequently the most vigorous of supporters (once they understand the concepts and the approach).

      Consider “Occam’s Razor”, the most popular version of which states, “Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.” When it comes to comprehending culture, and especially when attempting to transform it, most continue to ‘multiply entities beyond necessity.”

      The complexity of culture and how to change it continues to be debated heavily, especially in academic circles. Our position is not to debate, but rather to report on the practical changes and results we have experienced to date, having worked with tens of thousands of workers and their leaders in many different countries.

      Keep in mind, we are talking about changing workplace culture, not replacing centuries-old traditions of ethnicity or religious beliefs.

      Relative to your Steiner references related to “hatred” and “spontaneous loud laughter”, these indeed are some of the strongest expressions of emotion. And the key to this is- emotion.

      You then ask whether I am, “…confident that [ I ] fully control all or any of the conventional LOGIC errors through a complex and multi-layered venture, this of Culture change, undertaken by you?”

      My answer is quite certainly…no. First, I seek not to control anything, but rather, to open doors and windows of thought and opportunity. Second, I revert to your references to Steiner. Human beings, their behaviors, and the moment-by-moment choices each of us makes, are far more controlled by emotion than by logic.

      This is the true essence of the approach. Individually, each of us are very different. ‘En masse’ however, we are all very similar. There are intrinsic aspects of human nature that lie true within each of us. Appealing to these provides tremendous power to transform…culture.

  2. Wayne Winkler
    2 years ago

    I didn’t want to be the first to comment any more than I wanted to be the only comment, but I just can’t get the illustration of building the wall out of my head. The approach is profoundly different from the method used for most projects or programs. Without giving away the secret, a significant mental shift occurs when the approach changes to “I’m not asking you to build the wall, I’m asking you to…”

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