How to Use Culture Patterns to Unlock New Productivity

March 9, 2023 Jamie Notter

This is the fourth 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.  

Converting a Problem Culture Pattern into New Productivity


With a small staff tackling a big mission, this organization was ready to grow to new levels, but remained stuck in the inefficiencies and limited results of its past practices. So it pinpointed the problem in its culture data and started finishing major projects ahead of schedule and under budget. Here’s how it worked:

  • Their culture assessment showed traditional scores in both agility and transparency, meaning their everyday work was slower than it needed to be.
  • To fix these patterns, they worked on clarifying decision-making roles, setting up new KPIs, and getting training in conflict conversations.
  • Suddenly they found themselves moving swiftly through even the most complex and challenging projects.


We ran the WorkXO Culture Assessment with them and then helped staff design more than 30 individual action items that would create a new path to better performance. Addressing issues like collaboration and transparency, they ended up removing the friction that had been holding them back, and unleashed productivity and effectiveness that the CEO had not seen before in his staff.

Within their WorkXO culture assessment data, they had some interesting patterns. Collaboration scored more futurist, but Agility and Transparency were notably more traditional. In everyday life, this translated to a group that was experiencing a lot of friction as they moved through the work day. They struggled with confronting conflict (one of the Building Blocks we measure in Transparency), and while they were a small organization where people were certainly willing to help each other, they had very sharp boundaries between functional areas and struggled with cross-functional communication. The CEO who brought us in knew that they could be accomplishing much more than they were at the time.

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

We worked with them to narrow down some priorities for their culture work, and conflict and collaboration were 2 of the 7 that they identified (others included innovation, strategy, and roles and responsibilities). Based on those priorities, we then helped them identify 35 individual action items designed to move the culture in the direction of the priorities. They picked 10 of those items as the highest priority and started implementing them right away. These included developing guidelines for conflict conversations, implementing a system for identifying decision-making roles within projects, and developing some new KPIs for the organization to help with transparency.

Within a year they saw noticeable productivity gains. “We just completed 3 major projects in the last cycle, all under budget, and all ahead of schedule,” said their CEO, who felt that kind of performance would have been impossible in the previous culture. The friction in the old culture wasn’t always noticeable, but it was clearly slowing them down. Once they addressed the specific culture patterns that were getting in the way, they experienced a significant change for the better. The CEO also noticed that the entire staff dealt much more easily and quickly with a major breakdown in their member database, including providing some tough answers to their governing board. In the past that challenge would have produced a lot of stress, delayed reactions, and avoidance of tough issues, but this time they moved through it quickly and easily, freeing them up to get moving on other issues.

See also  Culture Assessment versus Engagement Survey

They are not stopping there, of course. They continue to implement the action items from their list, adapting them or even replacing them as needed. The CEO has also noticed a new level of ownership and empowerment from the staff based on the culture work, which has involved everyone on staff, working together.

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.