Should you assess your current culture?

A common question I get when we begin to work with a company is “Shouldn’t we do some kind of assessment of our current culture?” And given how common this question is, it’s not surprising that there are a variety of assessment tools on the market for just this purpose. While many of these tools are nicely designed, my answer to this question may surprise you.

A design function

When we take a company through the Fundamentals Process™ I often describe it as a “design function.” In other words, we’re designing, in an intentional way, the culture we want to create. As we design, there may be many elements of the current culture that we want to preserve and carry into that plan for the future. And there will likely also be things we’d like to change. As it relates to assessments, however, here’s the key issue: regardless of how the assessment turned out, we’d still follow the exact same process! We’re still going to go through the same process of identifying our Fundamentals, rolling them out, and practicing them every week.

Doing an assessment that tells us what our people think the culture is right now might be interesting, but once again, if it’s not going to change what we do next, it’s of little value. As an aside here, I find that our ability to collect lots of data often causes us to collect data for its own sake, simply because we can, as opposed to asking how it will be used to inform our decisions. If we can’t imagine doing anything different as a result of the data we collected, then there’s no reason to collect it.

Getting a Baseline

I want to make an important distinction here. Once we’ve designed the culture we want to create, by articulating our desired Fundamentals, I do think we should find out how the world thinks we’re doing in living up to these Fundamentals. This gives us a starting point from which to measure our improvement. And we should then do an annual survey to see how much we’ve improved and to identify the areas in which we need the most work.

The difference is that we’re measuring how we’re doing in living up to the culture we’re trying to create, rather than measuring what our people think our culture is currently. The former is useful to inform our actions, while the latter is merely interesting.

I’m definitely in favor of assessment. It’s simply a question of what we’re assessing, when, and how we plan to use it. In my next post, I’ll share some thoughts about how you can use an annual Fundamentals survey to help drive your process forward.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about how you can use the Fundamentals System™ to design and drive a high performing culture, just shoot us an e-mail or give us a call.

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