Making It Real

There are a lot of organizations that start their culture work with core values. While I argue that core values are not enough, I do certainly understand the desire to start with them. Every organization needs some clarity about what is valued. That is definitely at the heart of your culture.

Of course, getting clear (as important as that is) is not enough on its own. It's kind of like that dreaded result of strategic planning: you work hard to create the beautiful three-ring-binder plan, only to have it sit on a shelf gathering dust until your next strategic planning exercise a year later. Putting that poster on the wall of your core values does not actually create the culture that you desire. You have to convert those ideas into reality.

There's a lot to that, of course (much of our consulting focuses on the "making it real" part of culture work), but here's a key tip: a lot of the making it real work needs to be done by your work teams, not just by the leaders and managers. The people who actually do the work of your organization need to sit down and define for themselves what those cultural values actually look like when doing the work. It has to be real for them, from their perspective. Because when they understand it at that visceral level, they will be much more likely to hold each other accountable to the new standards. And without that accountability, the cultural efforts can fizzle.

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