Behaviors to Support Your Desired Culture

In the previous articles we provided an overview of a model we use to lead organizations through a systematic approach to changing organization culture.

This article will examine how to build alignment throughout an organization with business practices that develop and support your desired culture.

How would people in your organization answer the following question: “What activities do we practice as an organization to make sure we continually build the work environment we promote?” The most typical answers will likely be:

  • Annual employee opinion survey
  • Annual holiday party
  • Annual Bar-B-Q
  • Social Committee
  • Various fund raisers for charity

We believe the work environment you are promoting is reflected in the values of your organization. Most people think of business culture as how we treat each other and the activities we do to promote good spirit. This is partially true, but it’s so much more. Culture is about our attitudes and behaviors related to our customers. It’s how an organization continually improves what it does. It relates to the overall connection people have towards where they work. The values of an organization tells people the kind of environment they will experience when they start working there.

Some of the common values we see posted in organizations are:

  •     Customers are # 1
  •     Customer Satisfaction
  •     Employee Satisfaction
  •     Trust and Integrity
  •     Safety
  •     Growth and Profitability
  •     Collaboration and Teamwork
  •     Continuous Improvement
  •     Operational Excellence
  •     Open and Honest
  •     High Quality Standards
  •     Learning and Innovation
  •     People are First
  •     Keeping Real
  •     Passion and Commitment
  •     Accountability

Most organizations then describe what the values mean at a high level, but do not take the next step and let people know how they will experience them from the organization or express how these values are lived by people .

If you go back to our original question regarding the activities your organization practices to build the environment it promotes, shouldn’t people be able to point out a lot of the business, as well as social, practices that link and support the values? Values typically describe the environment an organization desires. In our work, we typically see a need to help companies link the business practices that support the environment they’ve described to their people through values.

If your organization says it values customer service, how do people throughout the organization see that value come to life? If your organization values teamwork, how do we make that come alive rather than keeping it lifeless expression on the plaque n a hallway?People will start to see the connections between the way you conduct business to specific values , but most often these connections are not well established or understood. In fact, most of the time, we have to help an organization build the business practices and activities that support their specific set of values.

For each value, ask yourself the following question: “What would you expect to participate in, or see practiced, within work groups and departments that would demonstrate the values of the organization are important and lived?” Sometimes we even ask whether there are practices or activities people should encounter on a daily basis. For instance, in manufacturing and distribution it is common to hold start-up meetings (team huddles, tool box meetings, tailboard meetings…). If your organization valued teamwork, openness, safety, or even continuous improvement, the start-up meeting is an example of a business practice you conduct to ensure you support that particular value. In addition to the start-up meeting, we would expect to develop many more business practices that support that value as well. Building culture entails having multiple ways for people to experience what the organization values.

Although we come across a wide range of values expressed by organizations, we are going to concentrate on a few values to illustrate how to align business practices with the values of an organization.

Customer Service Value Example

For this example we are going to use the distribution and logistics industry. A distribution company typically demonstrates good customer service through their load accuracy, on-time delivery and low levels of damages. These are great metrics to use to determine success. But does success with these metrics make the customer value lived by the organization? No. The metrics just report what happened not how it happened and the effort involved. Metrics can report improvement but not the spirit or feeling in the organization that is changing. The Metrics give a final number of service levels but not the total picture of everyone who was involved.

For a distribution center we look for the links of the customer service value from the customer’s receiving door all the way back through the service chain. We also look for how involved the various stakeholders have become. For a distribution center we might find the following business practices in action:

  • Customer receiving load evaluation system that the front-line shipping team receives, actions, and follows up on
  • Shift start-up meetings that review load evaluations, damages, quality, production levels, safety… with input from team members
  • Certain frequency each year of up-stream/down-stream reviews of the service chain
  • Monthly cross-department team meetings with a sampling of different team members each time.
  • Customer complaints review team which includes front-line team members. Customer claims should also be reviewed by this team to find corrective actions. The team develops corrective actions for the organization.
  • Customer visit programs (or calls/video cast). The frequency of this program will be determined with the customer and it should include a cross-section of the organization (mixed with management and team members)
  • Visual displays for customer key performance indicators
  • Driver feedback program
  • Annual training on service and company business practices
  • Cross training program for picking and receiving with shipping
  • On-call list for customers/stores
  • Invite the customer to communication forums and strategic planning sessions
  • Annual customer survey (this is most commonly done)

Although distribution centers may have some of these practices, they may not be clearly connected to the customer service value for people to know why they are practiced and the level of importance of them. Remember, this is just the distribution center involvement in the customer service value. Unless it is a 3rd party distribution company, other parts of the organization such as purchasing and stores may have their own set of business practices to support the customer service value.

Each organization will be quite different in its business practices but the above example should provide some thought to whether people throughout your organization can point to and know where they have the opportunity to fit in with building the customer service value.

Teamwork and Collaboration Value Example

We find it quite common for an organization to say it values teamwork and collaboration. In particular, organizations typically have a value that emphasizes positive interactions between people and the value of working together.

The business practices that could be involved in this value can be quite long. We are going to list a few with a variety of themes to make the point. What are some of the business practices your organization could support to bring the value of teamwork and collaboration to life are?

  • Same day rule – replies to enquiries will be given within the same day or within 24 hours. This may not mean the final answer is known but the person can expect a reply
  • Develop and practice Team Recognition within departments as achievements are met
  • Weekly department/team meetings that encourages two-way communication
  • Breakfast with the boss or ‘coffee chats’ (this has a wide variety of forms)
  • Open job posting process
  • Team Members help with hiring and probation
  • Monthly General meetings
  • 360 reviews on leaders (and possibly team members if the organization is ready for them)
  • On-line continuous improvement system where ideas go to a core group of team members and management and the outcomes from suggestions are posted
  • Team meeting tracking – actions tracked and always followed up
  • Project teams involve team members and even lead by team members
  • Quarterly or Annual Department process review team(s) on particular processes/systems
  • Employee opinion survey
  • …there could be many of these

The point of the above list is to ask yourself whether your people could point to anything more than the employee opinion survey as something they believe the organization does to support the value of teamwork and collaboration. This list is unique for each organization and each department can even have its own unique practices they develop to support the value. The question really comes down to whether people can see and experience the effort that you put in to particular ways of doing business to support the development of the teamwork value.


Each organization will have a different list of business practices they should develop and communicate to its people. Unless people experience values through the way you conduct business, the organization is leaving it to chance whether people will make the connection and recognize whether the values are truly important. Anorganization is also leaving the culture that develops to chance. Values give clues to how anorganization is run. We simply help an organization systematically look for and develop business practices that people can count on and interact with to help them bring the values to life.

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Five part series on Culture Change:

  1. Steps to Culture Change
  2. What Impacts an Organization’s Culture?
  3. Behaviors to Support Your Desired Culture
  4. Business Practices to Support your Desired Culture
  5. Continuous Improvement Strategies to Build Your Desired Culture