You Can’t Improve Your Culture Until You See the Culture Patterns

December 7, 2021
December 7, 2021 Jamie Notter

As I said in my previous post, the work of culture is fundamentally about answering the what, why, and how questions. As you start to answer the “what” question (what is your culture?) you will inevitably get into your culture patterns.

A culture pattern is simply the way an organization approaches one of the 8 core elements of culture: agility, collaboration, digital, growth, inclusion, innovation, solutions, and transparency. Patterns typically show up as a contradiction or a gap, where two parts of the cultural element are treated differently inside the culture.

Most organizations don’t see their culture patterns. They like to think of their culture in simpler terms: we value collaboration, or we value transparency. What our research has revealed, however, is that it’s rarely that simple. When it comes to transparency, for instance, the dominant culture pattern is one we call “reactive transparency.” The culture values sharing information, so people will happily share things when asked (reactive), but there is not as much emphasis on creating systems and processes that ensure information is shared even before people have to ask (proactive).

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That pattern can have a big impact on the quality of decision making in the organization. When you have to wait for the right information, or you choose to make decisions without all the information you need, you will consistently make bad decisions. If that’s happening, then you need to change your culture patterns, so you might invest in a better intranet for information sharing, or perhaps change the way you do team meetings and organizational dashboards.

Until you see the pattern, you won’t come up with the right action plan for change. Our culture assessment is a perfect way to see the patterns with all their nuanced detail. We are also developing an online course and workshop for uncovering patterns that will be released early next year. If you’d like to be among the first to get the notification of the new programs, sign up below.

 

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Photo by Dan-Cristian Pădureț

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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