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Create sustainable, high-performance cultures and impact the world.

The Role Social Leaders Play in the Optimistic Workplace

By Shawn Murphy and Mark Babbitt

There’s so much talk about culture these days. In fact, “culture” could once again be the buzzword of the year.

Here’s the problem: When most leaders talk about “culture”…they actually mean climate. So let’s define those two very different elements of the workplace.

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To accelerate the culture learning curve and truly impact the world, it’s critical to build on the experience of pioneers in the field of organizational culture. Our Culture Pioneer Panel, one of the unique highlights of the Ultimate Culture Conference, featured insights from three of these trailblazers: Edgar Schein, Larry Senn, and Robert Cooke.

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How Culture Can Build Champions or Hide Heroes!

By Dr. Jason Carthen

There are many individuals who got up this morning unhappy with their current job or position in life. It could be they had great expectations after finishing college, or they decided their previous career was not well-suited for them. Some even went back to school to get an advanced degree, just to find out the degree would not be a cure-all for their disenchantment. Whatever the case may be, there is no shortage of employees who are unhappy with their jobs. According to Gallup, over 70% of workers are unhappywith their place of employment.1 One big cause: Organizational culture.

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How Culture Really Works: Levers for Change

By Robert Cooke, Ph.D.

Given that organization development consultants are fundamentally agents of change, it’s no surprise that many of the questions they ask us about our culture and climate surveys focus on levers for change. Most recently, an attendee at the 1st Annual Ultimate Culture Conference submitted a note card asking, in reference to the Organizational Effectiveness Inventory® (OEI) and my presentation on How Culture Really Works, “If you were to focus on one category of causal factors (structures, systems, etc.), which would you choose?”

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Culture and Performance

By Larry Senn

My fascination with culture began more than 40 years ago when another young industrial engineer named Jim Delaney and I started a process improvement consulting firm not long after graduating from University of California Los Angeles. I quickly discovered that it was easier to decide on change than to get people to change. I observed that companies, like people, had personalities and, while some were healthy, most were like dysfunctional families. They had trust issues, turf issues and resistance to change. The difference between working with Sam Walton on the supply chain at Walmart versus with Woolworth was like night and day. It was clear one would succeed and the other would fail because of the mindset and habits of the firms.

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So You Want to Create a Culture?

By Edgar Schein

Culture is in these days, so I get a lot of inquiries about creating a culture, usually around “engagement” or “service” or “innovation.”  My typical response is “Why do you want to do that?” or, alternatively, “Can you give me an example of what you have in mind?”  Why don't I just say, “Sure, and here is how you do it.”? 1 There are several reasons.

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Are your year-end performance discussions more painful than they’re worth? Are you doing them merely to comply with legal requirements or to decide who gets paid what? Would most of your managers prefer to throw the system out? If so, you are missing the mark on a very powerful system that can build your brand as a talent-based culture and market leader.

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The book I am writing1 is the result of an unpredictable journey in healthcare and my complete respect and admiration for the caregivers in healthcare organizations in the United States. I believe every organization has the capacity and potential to create a work environment that is purposeful, fulfilling, constructive, and fun. Yes, fun! It’s not strategy; not finance; not technology. It is organizational culture that trumps everything else in healthcare.

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The Real Culture Debate

By Janet Szumal, Ph.D.

Are the numerous and varying reactions to Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld’s New York Times article on Amazon’s culture really just about Amazon and its culture? Or is the real debate about whether it is acceptable—or even desirable—to create, drive, and reinforce norms and expectations for Aggressive/Defensive behavior in organizations? Based on thousands of blog posts and comments, I believe it is the latter.

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To Impact Culture, Connect Where It Counts

By Jim Johnson

How many times have we heard someone complain, “We really need better communication around here”?

In fact, organizational surveys and commentaries on their results routinely cite the need for better communication to improve organizational climate, culture, and outcomes such as engagement. For example, a 2014 Gallup Poll1 revealed that fewer than 32% of US workers are engaged in their work. More sobering was the notion that nearly 1 in 6 is actively disengaged. Since we know that engagement is an outcome of culture, what does this tell us? Surely leaders didn’t set out to deliberately disengage a large segment of the people in their organizations.

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Win-Win-Win! Constructive Cultures Benefit Women and Men, and Organizations Too

By Aarti Shyamsunder, Ph.D. and Cynthia Emrich, Ph.D.

Masculine, “bro,” and hyper-aggressive workplace cultures have captured much media attention over the past few years. Whether focused on Silicon Valley or Wall Street, journalists describe the obstacles such cultures pose for women. We question two aspects of this basic storyline because it may lead organizations to believe they’re in a win-lose situation: “Who should we please—women or men?” So we asked these questions: Do such cultures exist only in high-tech and finance? And, are they problematic only for women? Catalyst research discovered that the answer to both questions is no. 

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Organizational Culture: The Memory of an Elephant

By Catherine M. (Cathy) Perme

A number of years ago, I got a call from a CEO of a high-tech firm that was having difficulty executing strategy. According to him, every fall the executive team went off on a high-powered retreat to do strategic planning, only to come back a year later with very little of it having been accomplished. At this point the market was catching up with them, and they needed to be much more nimble and innovative to compete. After several years of trying different facilitators, the CEO began to realize that perhaps the problem was with them. And perhaps it had to do with their culture.

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“Bad Behavior” at the Top?

By Janet Szumal, Ph.D.

Bad behavior at the top is apparently “in.” The New York TimesWall Street Journal, and the Atlantic, just to name a few, have all recently published articles highlighting the short-term, self-serving, aggressive behavior of esteemed as well as not so widely-respected top leaders1. Is something fundamentally or inherently wrong, deficient, or even derelict about the people who hold top positions in certain organizations? Or is the ever spreading “leadership crisis” really just a function of how leaders are selected, developed and rewarded? We take the position that it is the latter.

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Employee engagement remains a hot topic among organizational leaders and consultants, and is often regarded as an upstream indicator of organizational performance. Gallup’s nationwide survey of employee engagement found the percentage of U.S. employees engaged in their jobs averaged 31.5% in May 2015—about the same as for the year 2014. This result is of concern because it’s assumed that engaged employees are “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work” and are “strongly connected to business outcomes essential to an organization's financial success, such as productivity, profitability and customer engagement”.

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This is the second post from a discussion between Professor Edgar Schein, arguably the #1 workplace culture expert in the world and a strong critic of culture surveys, and Dr. Robert A. Cooke, creator of the most widely used organizational culture assessment in the world. The discussion resulted in 12 key areas of common ground across qualitative and quantitative culture assessment and development approaches.

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What happens when you have a discussion with Professor Edgar Schein, arguably the #1 workplace culture expert in the world and a strong critic of culture surveys, and Dr. Robert A. Cooke, creator of the most widely used organizational culture assessment in the world? It was exciting to see this discussion unfold to a point where both were “blown away” by the amount of agreement and “common ground” that exists between the approaches they advocate.

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Create Constructive Cultures and Impact the World

By Robert Cooke, Ph.D.

Over 30 years of research across thousands of organizations using the Organizational Culture Inventory® has shown positive relationships between Constructive cultural norms (that is, expectations for members to behave constructively in order to “fit in”) and motivation, engagement, teamwork, quality, external adaptability and, ultimately, profitability.

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