Recognise This! – Cultures change. Without measurement of how your culture is doing, you cannot tweak it and keep it on track.

In a blog post on TLNT, Tim Kuppler wrote about the four keys to building a strong culture. What most intrigued me about his post was that 2 of the 4 keys are measurement.

“Measure your culture and engage the organisation in understanding the results at a deeper level. I am absolutely amazed by how many expert opinions about culture change lack this basic and absolutely obvious fundamental. Some organisations think they may be covering this measurement through an engagement, climate, satisfaction or other survey but they are actually only evaluating a fraction of the overall culture. Use a research-based tool with a substantial benchmark database so you will be compared to many other organisations. Engage your organisation in the process to move from the fog of opinions and lack of clarity about your culture to a clearly defined picture of what you are all about. You’ll understand the overall culture and how it varies by department, division, level, geography or other key sub-groups. It’s like taking an MRI of your culture. This clear definition of “who we are” is critical for the next step where strengths are leveraged and weak areas improved that have been holding the organisation back.”

“Measure progress consistently and refine improvements with discipline and determination. John Kotter references the need to implement a new “operating model” as part of the change. Think about habits and routines more than one-time actions. How will you need to adjust meeting schedules, communication plans, measurements, tracking formats, team structures or other areas to improve how you manage the 1-3 priorities you identified? It will be important to monitor key measures related to the top priorities since culture clearly impacts performance however you define “performance” in your organisation. There will need to be regularly scheduled feedback and prioritisation routines to identify and build on what’s working and to adjust actions that aren’t having the desired impact. The organisation will see what’s working and what’s not and will spread the good ideas of your new operating model to areas outside of the 1-3 priorities you originally identified. You’ll know at that point you have the flywheel of culture change moving and gaining momentum.”

I agree with Tim that measurement is often overlooked or underutilised, even by true culture proponents. Even more to the point, you must decide what you want to measure before you launch your new initiative and definitely before you set out to measure it.

All too often, people will measure anything, then manipulate the results to tell a good story afterwards. Instead, if you want solid, actionable culture change and sustained positive culture over time, you must determine your metrics for success first, and then consistently and ongoing measure against those metrics.

Only through faithful measurement and reporting over time (and in real-time) can you see your culture in action and tweak as necessary to keep it on the right path.