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Values in Action: Culture Planning for Long-Term Success

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BY: Jeannie HowellON: 11.28.2023

I often hear the saying, “culture eats strategy for breakfast’. But what does that actually mean? What is organizational culture? And why is it so important to the success of organizations? Well, if you’ve ever tried to execute a strategy, it becomes very clear why culture is at the center of your team’s success.

What is organizational culture?

Culture is the lifeblood of your organization. It is the explicit and implicit values, guiding principles, policies, and everyday interactions that, when combined, create a latticework of interconnected behaviors, actions, and intangibles that make up the heart of an organization’s culture.

It is the feeling you get when you enter the all-staff meeting. It’s the attitudes and behaviors modeled from the top that trickle down and create organizational norms of how we communicate, celebrate, and navigate the hard parts of our work.

Why is it so important?

There are a million and one reasons I can think of when it comes to why you should pay close attention to your organization’s culture, carefully and considerately define it with your team, and tend to it with vigor.

  1. Guides Employee Behavior: Organizational culture sets the tone for how employees should behave and interact within the company. It influences the norms, values, and ethics that guide decision-making and day-to-day actions.

  2. Increases Engagement: A positive and strong culture fosters employee engagement. When employees align with the culture, they tend to be more motivated, committed, and satisfied with their work, leading to higher productivity and retention.

  3. Aligns with Strategy: Culture should align with an organization's strategic objectives. A culture that supports the company's goals can make it easier to implement strategies and achieve long-term success.

Values in Action

So we know what it is and why it’s important, how do we fix it? Start with values. An organization’s values encapsulate the essence of your organization’s culture and provide teams with a potent lens through which to filter five main areas of your organization where culture is nurtured. They are:

  1. Recruitment: Are you attracting candidates who buy into your values already and vetting them accordingly? Ensuring that your values are reflected in your recruitment process is key to attracting talent that is aligned with the organization’s value set.

  2. Onboarding: An employee’s first impression of your organization has an outsized impact on how they think about the organization. How are you anchoring that first impression in your values while onboarding new employees?

  3. Daily Reinforcement: This is the core of how culture is built. What actions are taken to reinforce your organization’s values in your day-to-day work continually? What policies and best practices can you implement to strengthen and anchor your organization in its value set? How do you do this both internally and externally?

  4. Celebration: How are you rewarding the embodiment and reinterpretation of your organizational values?

  5. Accountability: How are you holding people accountable when their actions are out of alignment with organizational values?

Putting it all together

When organizations turn to Third Plateau for guidance in gaining clarity and implementing crucial changes to their organizational culture, we embark on a collaborative journey with the entire entity—leaders, staff, and board members. Together, we create a core set of values and chart a course for bringing those values to life.

Our three-phased approach to culture planning involves understanding your existing culture, defining core values, mapping out how these values manifest in your organization, and creating a robust action plan for the continued cultivation and nurturing of your culture over the years.

In our culture planning process, we craft a lasting roadmap for organizations to express, sustain, and nurture their culture for years to come. Because a well-maintained culture is the key to turning great ideas and intentions into lasting success.

Ready to take the first step towards a thriving culture? Connect with us and let our culture planning services fuel your organization's success.

Jeannie Howell (she/her) is a Senior Director on the Leadership Development Team and Executive Coach at Third Plateau. In these roles, she leads and manages leadership development projects, provides clients with a supportive and transformative space to explore their leadership; and facilitates client retreats and training sessions for groups and teams.

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