How Culture Patterns Reveal the Non-Obvious Path to Speed

March 13, 2023 Jamie Notter

This is the fifth post in a new series of case studies that showcase several different ways in which we have worked with a client to solve a particular presenting culture issue.  

Using Culture Patterns to Move Past the Obvious and Discover the True Path to Speed


This organization got harsh feedback from customers and stakeholders: you’ve become too slow. Their culture data said they had issues with information sharing, but they dug a little deeper and realized it was about decision making roles, and that’s how they unlocked new speed. Here’s how it worked:

  • The specific building blocks around the depth and breadth of information sharing in their culture data were more traditional, but the real problem was too many people wanted to be a part of too many decisions.
  • So they got rigorous in defining decision making roles, which changed expectations around information sharing.
  • Once they limited the conversations to the real decision makers, their speed came back.


As an examination of their culture analytics, staff were able to understand underlying paradoxes within their culture – this gave them the insights to make important shifts in their internal processes to unlock new speed in their decision making.

The association completed our WorkXO culture assessment, and noticed some interesting patterns related to Transparency. Several of the Transparency Building Blocks were noticeably outside their “contemporary” score averages, instead sitting more in line with “traditional” management scores. In this case, the traditional scores were in how the association’s employees were confronting conflict, and in the depth and breadth of internal information sharing. Not only were the scores more traditional, the culture data showed how they were also being experienced differently among different groups inside the staff.

See also  Overview of Your Culture Assessment Options

We helped the internal Culture Team dig into the data, and it generated an important insight: The level of information being shared internally turned out NOT to be the driver of this issue—instead, the disconnect was based in different expectations of who should know what, and why. This organization had developed a pattern over the years where decisions required input from a large variety of staff from different areas, which meant that for any given decision, they were likely to have people involved who did not have adequate information (since the decision was not particularly related to their everyday work). That meant that the demand for information was forever outstripping the supply, even though they were actively trying to share more internally. Furthermore, it was slowing them down. Too many cooks in the kitchen made it harder to move things along, and their members were noticing.

See also  How Culture Design Can Take You from Good to Great

Armed with this insight, they pivoted to focus on decision making instead of information sharing. By clarifying their understanding of who makes the decision, who needs to be consulted before a decision is made, and who gets informed after the decision is made, they essentially lowered the demand for information. They translated this into a core Cultural Priority for the organization:

“Everyone has a voice, but not everyone decides.”

In other words, they were going to be disciplined about the decision-making process, without violating some of their important cultural values around inclusion. Based on that priority, they decided to incorporate the RACI model in their decision making, and combined that with a separate action plan around providing conflict resolution training to enable staff to work through differences more quickly.

The impact of the shift is still playing out for this organization, but staff have reported that the clarity is enabling faster decision making, which has resulted in getting resources out to members ahead of when they need them—a key driver of this association’s success.

More information about how PROPEL can help you solve real business problems by aligning culture with success:

 Culture Assessment –

Culture Design Consulting –

Culture Change Coaching –

Contact us –



Jamie Notter

Jamie is an author and growth strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders integrate culture, strategy, and execution to achieve breakthrough performance and impact. He brings twenty-five years of experience to his work designing culture-driven businesses, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is also the co-author of three books—Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement—and holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.