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November 14, 2016 | last updated November 15, 2016 10:09 am
How To

How To: Determine the health of your organization's culture

Rob Neal

Organizations with healthy cultures live long and prosper. If you and the majority of your employees can answer yes to all of the following questions, then there's a good chance you work for an organization that works well for everyone.

The hope

• Do you work where you feel valued and respected, are given a voice, have influence, can use your full range of skills and develop to your full professional potential?

• Do the leaders support an open, inclusive, creative organizational culture based on core values and supporting behaviors?

• Is your work life the way you want it to be?

• Do you feel interested, excited, and challenged by the work you do?

• Does your organization regularly assess the health status of the culture?

The dilemma

Many organizations do not make cultural health a priority. Some do, but often don't ask the types of questions that will uncover the more complex issues and dynamics employees experience on a regular basis. Too often a troubling level of employee dissatisfaction persists.

One highly effective method for assessing the health of an organization's culture is the Four D's.

This practical and intentional process of discovery, discernment, diagnosis and delivery helps determine the status of an organization's health and provide a path to improvement.

Assessing reality

• During the discovery phase, surveys, focus groups and individual interviews can highlight specific issues and broad themes and begin to identify the norms and patterns of behavior that determine what type of culture an organization has built. The discovery phase works best when asking specific questions in a safe and open ended manner. While businesses can choose to accept or reject the feedback, smart organizations absorb the information and make plans to improve their culture. Too often organizations ask too broad or noncontroversial questions and cannot really discover anything new or meaningful.

• The discernment phase involves taking all of the data and input gathered through discovery to determine patterns of behavior, how strengths and challenges impact one another, whether employees can speak freely about issues and how supportive the performance management process seems, to name a few.

• With relevant and actionable feedback, plus a skillful analysis of the data, making an accurate diagnosis is now possible. The best, clearest and most useful diagnosis usually comes from having a diverse cross-section of the organization looking together at the discovery input and the discernment connections to then formulate an overall diagnosis of the organization's culture and health.

Take action

The delivery phase includes naming the actions, goals, time frames and responsible people to meet the identified challenges. For these actions to be effective and have a lasting impact, everyone in the organization will play a part, starting with the most senior level of leadership.

A way forward

In the healthiest organizations, senior leaders demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues, set overall priorities, determine timely goals, and seek to build a culture based on core values and behaviors that make it possible for everyone to perform at their best.

For the first step ask yourself what elements of the culture do you want and need to know more about before making important decisions concerning people, processes, structure, and strategy.

It's a matter of will, commitment, good choices, and believing in your employees.

Rob Neal, president of Rob Neal Consulting in Yarmouth, helps organizations build healthy cultures and strong leaders. Find out more at www.robnealconsulting.com or by contacting him at rtneal@gmail.com

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