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Building the Culture

Probably none of these items is unfamiliar. What is new is using them to deliberately reinforce

desired values, knowing that achieving these will guarantee corporate success. Once you decide on

the values you want, it does not matter where you start. Pick an action you are comfortable with.

Do it, see what happens and move forward.


1. Build Relationships

Good relationships are the foundation for better communications, improved decisions, and increased performance. The most direct way to build relationships, is by getting to know people personally, through a confidential dialog. For more on this type of “Cultural Interview” see, The Formal Culture Change Process.


2. Involve People in Decisions

When a decision is coming up that affects people; involve them in it in some way. This doesn’t mean you hand over the store, but it does mean you discuss issues and get ideas. You can always ask for people’s ideas on how to carry out a decision. When possible use the “Four-Step Decision Process”.


3. Communicate the Big picture

Update everyone regularly on the big picture, how the company is doing, long-range plans, new clients, new developments, problems and opportunities. When people understand the big picture, they make better decisions.


4. Use Rewards

Recognize and reward desired behavior with ceremonies, bonuses, and promotions. Make recognition very public and personal, so that it is clear to everyone what behaviors are valued and desired. Base promotions on values demonstrated, not just on a vacancy, operational skills, or financial performance .


5. Know Where You Fit

Make sure employees understand the overall production process, particularly as it affects their work. They should understand how they fit in, and how to measure their performance. They should particularly understand areas they can control, such as productivity, customer satisfaction, and material loss.


6. Build Teamwork

People want teamwork. It is the key to high morale. Encourage managers to share information, discuss issues, and make decisions with their whole team. Help managers see that one-on-one decisions don’t foster a culture of cooperation, teamwork, and trust.


7. Open Up the Finances

Make sure employees understand the financial picture, particularly as it affects their work. They should know generally what value they add, what they cost, and the effect of overtime on financial performance. They should particularly understand any financial areas they can affect e.g. productivity, customer service, or waste.


8. Value People’s Ideas

Most employees have many ideas to improve their work, but they see no evidence that their ideas are valued. Change that. Meet with employees and work teams, to discuss openly and without judgment, issues, opportunities, and new ideas. Let people know that what they think is as important as what upper managers think. Have groups analyze and recommend solutions to their own problems.


9. Encourage Group Feedback

Get the workgroup together. Have each person write on the easel pad one response from each person to these two questions. (Don’t allow discussion or comments.)

  •   “What do I do now that makes your job easier? This is something I should do more of.”
  •   “What don’t I do that would make your job easier if I did. i.e. What new action you would like me to take?”

After everyone is finished, ask the group to discuss what happened and what people might do with the information.


10. Develop Careers

Develop a realistic and attainable career development plan that meets people’s personal desires, interests, and goals. Involve each person in customizing their job so they can do more of what they want—and less of what they don’t.


11. Reassess Training

Formal training is ideal for skill shortages but rarely useful for cultural issues. You might use some training money to bring people together to discuss their road-blocks at work. Most road-blocks are cultural, for example with issues around roles, authority, trust, communications, information, and relationships. Use the Four-Step Decision Process to identify top issues and what to do.


12. Don’t Take Away Other People’s Problems or Ideas

A person with a problem is motivated to solve it, so don’t take it away from them. (See, Problem—Who Has It?) If a person has a suggestion, coach managers not to say, “I’ll look into it and get back to you.” Help them say, “That’s interesting. Let’s discuss how you can move on that.” Try these “Coaching” questions that help people keep problems and ideas where they belong—with the person who cares about them and is motivated to act on them. Ask the employee:

  • “Tell me more about the problem?”. . .“And what’s behind that?”
  • “Whose problem is it? Who suffers because of this?”
  • “Who else is affected by this problem?” . . . “How could you involve them?”
  • “Do we know what the problem costs us?”
  • “What will solving it save? (What is the value added?)”
  • “How does this fit with our plans?”
  • “Are you willing to take this on?”
  • “What can I do to help you move it along?”


13. Post Vacancies

Post vacancies so that all employees can apply. Give all internal applicants constructive feedback on their rating, and areas they could strengthen.


14. Involve People in Hiring

Involve employees in the selection and hiring of any new employees they will be working with.


15. Interview New Employees

Get to know people, build relationships, to find out what they liked and disliked about their previous jobs, and to let the know you care. Use the information to improve your own workplace.


16. Hold Exit Interviews

Understand why employees leave. Keep a summary of the major reasons, and discuss these with management.


17. Conduct Employee Surveys

Use surveys to build openness and reinforce desired values. Involve employees in designing the survey, and the managers and employees in deciding how the data will be fed back to everyone. The survey process should pass the “bulletin board test.” Do not conduct surveys that treat people as objects.


18. Make Sure Decisions Pass “The Bulletin Board Test.

Post on the bulletin board, the process you use to make a decision. Decisions might include, promotions, bonuses, vacation schedules, training, assignments, employee evaluations, or anything else that interests and affects employees. If employees feel that a decision process is legitimate, they more willingly accept the final decision, even though they might not like it. Remind people that a good decision process always involves those affected by the decision.