Busting the Myths Around Culture Change

April 18, 2024 Jamie Notter

When we talk about workplace culture, there’s a lot of mythology out there. Some of it’s so ingrained in our professional psyche that we accept it without question. But it’s time to challenge those myths with some hard realities, and I want to help steer that conversation.

One of the most pervasive myths is that culture is a nebulous, unquantifiable thing— it’s ”just the way we do things around here,” with an emphasis on vibe and atmosphere. This view relegates culture to the realm of the intangible, difficult to define, and even more challenging to change. But is that really true? In my experience, and based on extensive research, it’s not. Culture is far from mythical; it’s measurable and manageable.

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Culture crystallizes around the words we speak, the actions we take, the processes we follow, and even the workspaces we design. These components underscore what an organization values, sometimes without actively trying. That means that changes in processes, structures, or the technologies we use can rapidly evolve our cultural landscape. This evolution shows that culture isn’t static; it’s dynamic and responsive. So why do we often feel it’s an immovable beast?

Largely, it’s because of another myth: that changing culture is an arduous, time-consuming process. Sure, effort is required, but remember, every decision and change you implement is actively shaping your culture. We’ve witnessed organizations transform their culture in remarkably short periods—turning oppressive environments into empowering ones, fostering engagement where there was fear, and it didn’t take them that long.

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These realities debunk the myth that culture is some vaporous entity floating above our heads, out of reach. It’s rooted in the tangible, the everyday, and the actionable. And understanding this is the first step in shedding the weight of those myths and taking confident strides towards positive cultural change.

In our new book, Culture Change Made Easy, we spell all this out in great detail, and then give you a practical model for changing culture that you can start to apply right away, no matter where you sit in your organization. The book comes out on Kindle on April 30, and is available for pre-order now.

Jamie Notter

Jamie is a co-founder and culture strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders create amazing workplace cultures that drive greater performance and impact. He brings thirty years of experience to his work designing and managing culture, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is the co-author of four popular business books, including the award-winning Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement, and his fall 2023 release, Culture Change Made Easy. He holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.