Is your work culture broken?

Organizations that have successfully changed their work culture from broken (or bent) to purposeful, positive, productive cultures share five critical success factors, according to our meta-analysis of culture research developed while working with culture change clients.

Guiding committed senior leaders to define their desired culture and to rally their staff to embrace desired values and behaviors is marvellous to observe. If done properly, their culture refinement efforts:

  • Generate higher performance
  • Increase the genuine consideration of bosses, peers, customers, and stakeholders
  • Create a values-aligned work environment where players are trusted, honoured, and respected.

5 Success Factors:


The senior leadership team must demonstrate a commitment to the long-term process. The culture change process must be embraced and championed by the entire senior leadership team. They must lead this effort with “one heart, one mind, and one voice.” Senior leaders cannot delegate the responsibility for culture creation, maintenance, or refinement any more than they can delegate the responsibility to breathe! They will be held to high standards as desired values are defined (in behavioural terms) and communicated. Cultural transformation is an ongoing project that will never go away.


Defining values in behavioral terms is the only approach that makes your desired behaviors observable, tangible, and measurable. Ultimately, you don’t care about someone’s beliefs or attitude – you care that they demonstrate desired valued behaviors with every boss, peer, customer, and stakeholder, every day, in every interaction.


Accountability for delivering promised performance and demonstrating valued behaviors is paramount. Consequences must be swift and consistent. Positive consequences for meeting performance and values expectations must be described and demonstrated. Praise and encourage the performance and values demonstration you want! Negative consequences must be applied when performance is below standards or valued behaviors are not demonstrated. You must not tolerate undesirable behavior from anyone at any level.

Embraced by Staff

It is vital that all staff are involved in and buy into the culture transformation at every phase. This process is not about “managing by announcements,” where leaders tell everyone what the new expectations are but don’t invite thoughts or hold people—including themselves—consistently accountable. For all staff to embrace the desired culture, they must be included in the clarification process. They must help define and commit to what the new culture will demand of them (and their bosses and peers).

Managing Scope

One step at a time. Find a manageable scope for the change initiative. Don’t try to change the entire organization at once; move at a pace that the organization can tolerate. Start with a distinct part of the organization—a department, division, plant, or regional office—to learn how the process flows. Then select another distinct part of the organization and begin the change process there, modifying and refining the rollout based on what you learned with the first group. Continue until you’ve “digested the entire elephant.”

Do you see these success factors in play at your organization?

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He shares insights on organizational culture, servant leadership, employee engagement, and workplace inspiration.

He writes books and articles and records podcasts.

In his free time, he’s a working musician with the Brian Raine band in Denver, CO.