Everyone wants to know how good their culture is. They want to know if their people rate the culture favorably, they want to know if they are considered a best place to work, they want to know if they have good engagement scores, and they want to know if they do a good job on things like innovation, transparency, collaboration, and agility.

I get it.

But before you even worry about how good you are, you need to know HOW your culture does these things.

For example, how do you do transparency inside your culture? That’s not a good/bad question—it’s how do you do it? Your culture is currently driving internal behavior around things like: how information gets shared, is it shared easily across organizational boundaries, do people trust each other and confront their conflict, and do you make sure that everyone understands your strategic priorities.

I don’t (yet) care if you do a good job at any of those things, because, frankly, I don’t know what’s good until I’ve taken a closer look at your context and what’s going on in your strategic environment. Strict internal secrecy might help you thrive, for all I know, so demanding more transparency might be a mistake. We’ll get into that later. But until I know HOW you do transparency, I can’t draw a legitimate conclusion about the effectiveness of your current cultural approach.

This is the work of culture management, folks. It’s deep and wide, and sometimes it’s a bit of a slog. But if you want an amazing workplace, you need to do this work. You need to get crystal clear about how your culture works and THEN you need to figure out if that’s good or not. And then you take action. It’s one foot in front of the other, but it ALWAYS starts with a clearer picture of what is.

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Jamie Notter