Culture is Not an Object


Last week while on a call with one of my clients, a CIO of a Fortune 50 company, I heard these words: “I look forward to when I can get back to focusing on the culture stuff again. We just have to get through this compliance audit and the budgeting cycle.”

Where to Start…

First, it’s amazing to me how easily we can reduce something as vast, complex, and important, to a word like, “stuff.”

Second, culture doesn’t ever stop happening. It’s happening during the budget meetings. It’s happening during the audit process. It’s even happening as we have this conversation. It is not a separate thing.

Most culture-changing initiatives fail because they are treated like just another project–something that is short-term, has a measurable outcome, and has a definite beginning, middle, and end. While there may be some positive culture-oriented results that come from such an effort, this is not the genuine work of attending to culture.

Culture is a verb not a noun. Culture is the ‘how.’ Once you have distilled and defined your company’s essence into a set of values and behaviors, you then have the necessary lens through which to view all activities.

Every meeting, every interaction, and every decision is either consistent or inconsistent with these values. Identifying the inconsistencies and doing something about them, is where the real work of culture-building begins.