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Culture change, innovation, and experimentation are all hot topics. But before you go about making changes, you need to have a good grasp on what your culture truly is, not simply what you think it is. As a culture consultant, I encounter a lot of confusion around this topic.

What is culture anyway? In a previous article, I’ve defined it to be the collection of words, thoughts, actions and—sorry for the technical term—“stuff” (i.e. the tangible and the non-human components of culture), all of which clarifies and reinforces what is truly valued inside an organization. Remember, what is valued will drive behavior, and that’s why culture is so important. Now that we have that cleared up, there are a few things you need to keep in mind before you disrupt the current way of life of both the staff and the members in your association.

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS

We all know the expression. The words you use to define your culture needs to align with the behaviors inside it. I don’t care how much you tell me that your culture is one way when I see people behaving another way. If behavior and words are inconsistent, then behavior wins.

YOUR CORE VALUES AND WHAT IS VALUED CAN BE DIFFERENT

Core values are lovely, but they rarely drive behavior. To get to the bottom of what is really valued in your organization, you need to look at what is driving behavior and how people make choices. To be an influencer in culture change, you need to see the culture patterns underneath the system.

INNOVATION IS NOT ALWAYS NEEDED

These days, I get called in to talk about innovation. “We need to innovate,” I keep hearing. That might be true—but not if you’re a nuclear power plant! In that context, I definitely do not want you hacking things. I don’t want you doing experiments before perhaps going through university-based peer-reviewed research first. Therefore, our approach to agility or innovation should be based on the organization. It has to make sense. You need to see the reality of your organization’s culture situation. You should always be choosing your culture based on what makes you successful.

THE CHANGES YOU WANT TO MAKE NEED TO MAKE SENSE

A lot of times when trying to influence culture change, we end up getting resistance we classify as resistance to change. But is that really the case? Sometimes, it’s actually resistance to doing things that don’t make sense. You need to get on the same page about the current state of your culture before pointing at a direction you want it to go. You have to connect your ideas back to the current reality. If we all spend more time helping people make sense of what’s happening right now, it will make it a lot easier to move towards a future desired state.

Jamie will be speaking in the “Troublemakers! Influencing a Culture that Drives Success” session during SURGE Co-Creation, an interactive virtual summit hosted by AssociationSuccess.org on May 1st-3rd. Click hereto register.

Jamie is an author and culture consultant at Human Workplaces who uses culture analytics and customized consulting to drive growth, innovation, and engagement for organizations around the world. He brings 25 years of experience in conflict resolution, generational differences and culture change to his work with leaders leveraging the power of culture. The author of two books — "When Millennials Take Over" and "Humanize" — Jamie has a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in OD from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.

Jamie is an author and culture consultant at Human Workplaces who uses culture analytics and customized consulting to drive growth, innovation, and engagement for organizations around the world. He brings 25 years of experience in conflict resolution, generational differences and culture change to his work with leaders leveraging the power of culture. The author of two books — "When Millennials Take Over" and "Humanize" — Jamie has a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in OD from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.

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