Learn About Organizational Culture: The Top 10 posts of 2016 on CultureUniversity.com

The Top 10 posts of 2016 on Culture University

The interest in culture continues to grow but this growth comes with a proliferation in over-simplified and incorrect information about culture and culture change. CultureUniversity.com launched in 2014 to cut through this misinformation and it has grown to be a great resource for leaders and change agents to learn about organizational culture. Over 30 organizational culture enthusiasts and experts shared their insights in 2016.

10 posts garnered the highest traffic and my personal top insight from each post is captured in the list below.

#10 – How Leaders Shape Culture – By Marlene Chism

Marlene focused this post on the world of front-line managers and supervisors. It’s easy for these leaders to get frustrated by a lack of power or influence to impact the entire culture.  Fortunately, these leaders do have a very clear impact on shaping the sub-culture of their department, location, or team. Her post zeroes in on trust, character, engagement, and accountability with specific examples.

#9 – Want Great Cultures? First, Build Great Teams – By Jon Katzenbach

Jon, acclaimed author of The Wisdom of Teams and culture expert, shared some important team effectiveness insights.  He shared the power of team norms or unwritten rules to guide the behavior of team members. I found it interesting that the “specific norms” don’t matter.  What’s important is to have some ground rules that allow a team to operate in a “safe place” where team members feel confident with each other. Do your teams have standard ground rules?

Organizational culture is a bottomless pit of questions and problems.  
-Edgar Schein

#8 – Zen and the Art of Culture Change – By Dennis Adsit

Dennis focused this post on Edgar Schein insights shared at the second annual Ultimate Culture Conference. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ed for the fourth time at this conference and he never disappoints. A point Dennis emphasized that might shock some is Ed’s statement that “Change agents who think corporate culture change is hard might be doing it wrong.” While this statement might be a surprise on the surface it likely isn’t as you think about how many organizations are not: (1) clear about the purpose of their change effort; (2) clear about the specific behaviors that must change; and (3) have a CEO willing to lead the change effort and connect it to top strategies and mission priorities.

#7 – 10 Organizational Behaviors Stuck in the Industrial Era – By Jonathan Gifford and Mark Powell

This post includes an interesting summary of 10 paradoxes of organizational behavior. It’s clear these paradoxes are at the surface of much deeper cultural issues in most organizations. One example that stood out to me was diversity of opinion where “organizations tend to become homogeneous environments where contrarians are unwelcome.” It’s so true that oppositional, perfectionistic, or other behavior and norms often inhibit most new ideas from ever seeing the light of day.

#6 – How to Shape a High-Performing Culture with Coaching – By Susan Camberis and Kathy Green

This post covers the “often-overlooked” role of coaching in effectively shifting or evolving culture. It includes numerous questions coaches can use to initiate dialogue in support of constructive or effective norms and behaviors. They matched up coaching questions to targeted organization norms or expectations in an interesting way.

#5 – 100 Culture Change Insights from 100 Culture Expert Posts – By Tim Kuppler

This was a milestone post. I had the crazy idea of looking back through the first 100 posts on CultureU to pick out 100 culture change insights that stood out to me. It wasn’t easy picking out my top 15 but they are the insights I consistently reference. My #1 was the insight from Edgar Schein about culture being built through shared learning and mutual experience. Ed shared it in a CultureU interview. It definitely fit with my experience as a leader and consultant taking organizations on a learning journey that’s directly focused on their purpose and mission priorities. Download the complete list of 100 insights and additional bonus content by signing up for our posts on CultureU.

#4 – 10 Guiding Principles of Organizational Culture – By Jon Katzenbach

The image that accompanied this post was shared extensively across social media. My favorite is ”don’t let your formal leaders off the hook.” Many top leaders delegate culture-related initiatives and disconnects persist across their own senior leadership team. Jon explained what happens if staff members see a disconnect in the behavior of senior leaders: “they’ll disengage quickly from the advertised culture and simply mimic their seniors’ behavior.”


#3 – Leadership Behavior: The Power to Shape Culture – By Marlene Chism

This excellent post probed the Karpman Drama Triangle orientations of victim, persecutor and rescuer. I loved her quick snapshot: “The Victim feels helpless, the Rescuer has the answer and the Persecutor tells you whose fault it is.”

#2 – 8 Culture Change Secrets Most Leaders Don’t Understand – By Tim Kuppler

This post was nearly 20 years in the makings. I was clueless about these “secrets” when I first held a top leadership role. I don’t think much has changed over the last 20 years as superficial and incorrect information about culture continues to be proliferated. These secrets are common sense but very rarely addressed as part of culture-related improvements.

The purpose of a company is not to create a nice workplace culture but to function in the economy, to provide goods and services
-Edgar Schein

#1 – 20 Organizational Culture Insights from a Edgar Schein – By Tim Kuppler

I was happy to see this specific post with the highest CultureU traffic in 2016. My first interview of Ed launched CultureU and was the most popular CultureU post in 2014. This interview was specifically designed to briefly capture some of Ed’s top culture insights at the beginning. He then connected these insights to popular topics like strategy, engagement and hiring for cultural fit. Ed also previewed insights that were later released in Humble Consulting and his most recent update to Organizational Culture and Leadership.

Thank You and the future

Thank you to all the contributors. CultureU wouldn’t exist without your interest in sharing what you have learned. Thank you to Kalani Iwi’ula for his excellent blog oversight and Jason Bowes for creating the weekly quote images.

CultureU continues to be part of a movement to change the way the world thinks about culture and culture change. Be a part of the culture learning journey on CultureU and contribute a your insights (see our guest post guideline). One final thank you goes to all of our readers. Your feedback, questions, ideas, and sharing of content on social media are a major part of the journey.

Editor’s Note: read Tim’s most popular CultureU post: 8 Culture Change Secrets Most Leaders Don’t Understand

And don’t miss the Culture Quick Start Program if you’re looking to jumpstart your culture change learning and initiatives.

About the Author

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Tim Kuppler

Faculty Tim Kuppler is the founder of Culture University and former Director of Culture and Organization Development for Human Synergistics, a 40+ year pioneer in the workplace culture field where he led collaboration and partnering efforts with culture experts, consulting firms, industry organizations and other groups interested in making a meaningful difference in their organization, those they support, and, ultimately, society. Currently with the Compass culture division of the staffing powerhouse, Insight Global, Tim authored Build the Culture Advantage, Deliver Sustainable Performance with Clarity and Speed, which was endorsed as the "go-to" resource for building a performance culture. He previously led major culture transformations as a senior executive with case studies featured as part of the 2012 best-selling book – Leading Culture Change in Global Organizations. He was also President of Denison Consulting, a culture assessment and consulting firm and is an accomplished speaker and recognized as a Top 100 leadership conferences speaker on Inc.com. Tim's 20 years of culture and performance improvement experience includes the rare mix of executive leadership, coaching, and consulting knowledge necessary to help leaders quickly improve team effectiveness and results as they focus on their top performance priorities, challenges, and/or goals. He networks extensively in the workplace culture field in order to learn and apply the latest insights from many experts.