How Do We Keep Our Culture Work from Stalling?

November 23, 2021
November 23, 2021 Jamie Notter

A major push on culture can get people excited and energized, but you always run the risk of the momentum fading over time, as people eventually turn their attention back to their “real” work. So when you start any kind of culture project, be sure to create a sustainability plan to go along with it.

The plan isn’t complicated, and includes the following components:

People. You need at least one person who has a formal responsibility to keep an eye on culture. Ideally you’ll have a small cross-functional team that adds this to their regular job duties. You can’t say “culture is everyone’s job.” Yes it is, in terms of living the culture, but to keep up on culture management, saying it’s everyone’s job means it’s no one’s job, and momentum will fade.

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Measurement. You have to have a plan and a rhythm for some kind of measurement of your culture. This doesn’t have to be a formal assessment—the minimum level of effort might be a half-yearly management team meeting that is devoted to a simple conversation: “How’s our culture doing? Noticing any problems? How should we address those?” You just need a structure to keep culture (and where it might be slipping) on people’s radar.

Communication. You also need a rhythm/cadence for talking about culture internally so it stays top of mind. This can be done simply, through a regular email (like a newsletter of sorts) that is always about your culture, what’s being done to support it, and highlighting examples of people living the culture particularly well. Or it could be folded into regular 1-1 meetings between supervisors and direct reports. But make sure people are talking about the culture.

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Putting these components in place is called “culture management.” You wouldn’t manage your finances without a set of financial management practices, and the same should go for culture. Following our standard “culture design” project, we often work with clients to set up their culture management practices to ensure the work does not fade into the background.

Photo by Will Porada on Unsplash

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.
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