Influencing culture is not about ‘pulling levers’!


We are mid-way through an assignment to assist a client organisation in positively influencing its organisational culture. Our methodology has developed over 20 years and is underpinned by systems thinking and complexity combined with psychology. If there is one thing I have learned, despite all the rhetoric, it’s that there are no levers that can be pulled to produce consistent and predictable outcomes. 

Influencing culture is an emergent process and requires engaging the people collectively and allowing them to decide that they want to do things differently. It includes:  

  1. Educating about what culture is and how to influence it  
  2. Skill-building to enable and empower people to lead change themselves, regardless of their formal role or level of authority  
  3. Reminding everyone that they have agency and can make a difference – they are not impotent within a system that may have forgotten them.   

Nurturing and channelling this energy to influence ‘the way we work’ also requires a leadership team committed to making the process a priority. They need to devote time (especially) and resources to the process and their people. They need to model a commitment to their own learning about themselves, others and their organisation. 

Same principles 

You may be wondering if the process of influencing the way we work is different depending upon the number of people involved. Yes, it is a different process in the sense that more people need to be mobilised, but the principles remain the same. So, whether you have a team of 12 or a department of 100 – the same principles apply.

How do we know we are on track?

In Big Little Shifts I spend some time exploring this question in chapter 9. It is true that not all things that matter (such as love and being valued as a human) can be directly measured. It is also true that “what can’t be measured cannot be managed” is false. How do we know we are on track in our work? We collect stories like those below. Have a look – tell me if they are not powerful indicators of progress!

Are you interested in knowing more?

Whether you are a CEO considering your organisational culture, or a Director with responsibility for People and Culture, or a team leader, I can assist you in different ways. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me and I’ll shout the coffee!