What is Culture Management?

April 8, 2022
April 8, 2022 Jamie Notter

Culture management is the set of systems and processes an organization has in place to design and continuously maintain and strengthen its workplace culture.

Culture is just like finances. It’s a critical aspect of business health, so it should be intentionally managed with appropriate processes, systems and the attention of staff at all levels, including the senior team. You wouldn’t think of running an organization without devoting that management work to finances, and the same should be true for culture.

Aspects of a culture management system include:

  • Assessing or measuring the culture on a regular basis
  • Developing culture priorities that are aligned with what drives your success
  • Designing and implementing organizational change efforts to strengthen culture
  • Setting and managing the culture budget
  • Measuring the progress and bottom-line impact of culture change

Who does this work varies a LOT from organization to organization. Size is probably the biggest factor: very small organizations will not have dedicated staff focused on culture, so this becomes part of the job of several people on the senior team, though usually with the person who also has HR in their portfolio, like a COO or CFO. But as we say in our culture maturity model course, culture ultimately needs a “process owner,” otherwise it becomes “everyone’s job,” which, unfortunately, means that it’s no one’s job.

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If you’re thinking to yourself, “But we don’t really do culture management here,” don’t panic. It’s easy to get started. Here are some things you could do:

Spend a day as a leadership team focused on culture. Culture is not the exclusive job of the senior team—it lives at all levels and is something every staff person should be aware of. But people do tend to look “up” when defining culture, so it’s critical that the senior team be on the same page about it. If you haven’t done anything on culture yet, this can be a good place to start.

Make a culture roadmap. Do you have a strategic plan with long-term goals, medium term targets, and short-term objectives and tasks? Great, apply that concept to culture. We help our culture coaching clients to map out their three-year culture priorities, their one-year culture focus areas, and even their quarterly culture change goals so they can stay on top of their culture management.

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Do the deeper work of culture design. If you’re ready to get serious about culture, then you need a clear picture of what your culture is and where it needs to be better aligned with what makes you successful. This is what we do in our culture design projects, and it involves a full assessment of your culture and the development of your initial culture change action plan. With that in place, it’s easier to set up your ongoing culture management systems.

If you think you need a little more education before you begin, take a look at our “Core Concept” courses in our online learning center, because they cover the basics of culture, culture change, and culture management. Or contact us for a chat about it.

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.