Working with a project management team to suggest design and implementation of a "corporate culture" in our growing bank. Any advice or can anyone direct me to tips, ideas, etc on this huge topic/issue? I am not senior management but on a team advising them. We feel that the culture needs to come from them and become a way of daily life and talk from the top down.

Other questions I have -- what dept in a company should "own" this, we are arguing between HR and Marketing. Industry=Banking

How do we make it a culture and not a program?

Thanks for any ideas.

Mark's picture

Sorry, but you're unlikely to be able to "create" a culture.

Culture is nothing more than the sum total of all the behaviors within an organization. That's it. The single biggest determinants of that are senior management examples (in all areas) and the rewards system. People do things for one of two reasons - to seek pleasure or to avoid pain - the rewards system makes clear the pleasure/pain continuum.

The fact is, you already HAVE a culture if you're already an organization (and clearly, you are that). So, the question is, how do you CHANGE a culture.

While I don't think what you're doing bodes well (the pm team), the solution is to be found (at a high level) in two books, that are related. The first is Leading Change, by John Kotter, and the second (WAY better but built on the first) is The Heart of Change, also by Kotter.

That's how to do it.

I'm shuddering a little, but I hope it works out well. Let me know how I can help further.


Peter.westley's picture


I would second Mark's comment. A culture [b]just is[/b].

What you may want to consider is [i][b]discerning[/b][/i] what that culture is, before trying to change it. When a good, concise description of a company's culture is found (and I say found, not defined), then by and large the people whose behaviours and norms are reflected in that culture will identify with it. They will feel aligned with it.

There's also a concept called [url=][u]Appreciative Inquiry[/u][/url], based on the work by David Cooperider which is a process that helps organisations understand who they are based on their strengths. A by-product of using AI is a better understanding of what the organisation is about and hence its culture. I have read one book on it and it wasn't particularly good one (I don't have the details - PM me if you're interested and I can find out for you so you can avoid it!) but there's heaps of books and other resources regarding the tool available.

Mark have you had any exposure to AI?

US101's picture


Warning! You are going in the wrong direction.

You don't change culture directly, only indirectly, as a byproduct of getting better results. You will not shift the culture by focusing on preparatory activities like you mentioned. Why? Because they're not strong enough to break thru the entrenched barriers to change of the culture.

Culture change programs don't work. Check out two articles

1) "Successful Change Programs Begin with Results, Not Programs" by Robert Schaffer

2) "Why Change Programs Don't Produce Change" by Michael Beer

What works? Give people a challenge, something they think they can't do, a short-term (90 days or less), measurble business goal. When they have to work differently to achieve the goal, then you get behavior change, which incremently changes the culture.

cincibuckeyenut's picture

I find this one fascinating since I just found out a few days ago that folks are preparing for a cultural intervention around here. HR fully believes you can change a culture.

Mark's picture

So often on this one I'm a lone voice in the wilderness. Nice to have company!

I do know a good bit about Appreciative Inquiry. I think it's fine... the couple of times I've been involved on projects with folks who have used it, it didn't produce any different results than any other form of interviewing and surveying. I like the theory, but in practice it doesn't hold anything special for me. Maybe I'm just doing it wrong; not sure.


Peter.westley's picture

This is a time when I've read the book, but not done AI or seen AI in action. I have been hoping for an opportunity to see it in action or try it out but am yet to have one.

Good to hear your first hand comments on it Mark. Thanks.

I was wondering if it maybe held light to Drucker's assertion about [b]really[/b] focussing on the strengths. Admittedly he's talking about the individual rather than the organisation - but is there a difference I wonder?


Mark's picture

I think there's a big difference, at least in how I see people answering. The key issue for me is that you're asking individuals (because you can't ask "the company") what the organization's strengths are. That changes the equation a great deal.

Most managers have a a WILDLY different view of their organization from the top leadership, sadly.