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26 Jun. 2013 | Comments (0)

Watch the On-Demand Recording of Linda Sharkey's February Book Discussion web cast, featuring her book, Optimizing Talent: What Every Leader and Manager Needs to Know to Sustain the Ultimate Workforce (Contemporary Trends in Organization Development and Change).


In my last blog, Culture: the Core Ingredient to Sustain Talent Rich Organizations, I spoke about cultural DNA – the values that define how organization members make decisions and behave. A negative organizational culture can have a profound and very harmful impact on organizations, creating a workplace of underperformance and high turnover.

The good news is Cultural DNA can be altered. Cultures are created and can be adjusted by using some new ingredients. Here is a tried-and-true recipe to follow that is simple. If you stick to it you are ensured success.   

1) Begin by assessing you current culture. Don’t just ask people what the culture is like – use valid and reliable instruments and measure your current culture using a sufficient sample. For years, I have used the Human Synergistics Organization Culture Inventory (OCI). The OCI codifies the current DNA and provides reliable data upon which to make some sound decisions for change.

2) Next, define the culture you need for business success. The beauty of the OCI is that you can also use this survey to ask organization leaders and members what the culture should be, creating a consensus for what is desired. Compare current and desired states and define the gaps to be addressed.

      3) Create a culture action plan with your leadership team; stick to it and regularly monitor it.

4) Next, define the values for the organization. Make them clear and not laden with platitudes. Be sure they have meaning and purpose for the organization and align with your new cultural DNA.

5) Define the behaviors that exemplify the values in the workplace. What does “great” look like when someone is demonstrating these behaviors.  Also, define what not living the values looks like in behavioral terms. This helps members be crystal clear about what they have to do differently.

6) Speak to these values and behaviors in all workforce communications. Tell the hero stories of the values in action. 

7) Assess workforce members on how they behave relative to these values. Use the assessment feedback to help them practice new behaviors and develop personal actions for change.

8) Hold people accountable for living the values. Ensure the values are aligned to performance discussions, talent reviews, and rewards systems. The second you reward or promote someone who does not live the values, you have seriously eroded your progress in remaking your Cultural DNA. 

9) Hold your leaders accountable. Reward your exemplars and call out inconsistent behavior immediately.  Make the tough calls when you have to.  Never say, “This leader gets results, so we’ll look the other way.”

10) Finally, always keep your eye on the ball – measure and track progress.  If you lose site of the ball, you can slip back to old ways that are even harder to change when they crop up again.

Good luck!  The rewards are great for following this recipe and staying on the journey. It makes life more fun and work more rewarding. Ask anyone who has taken the plunge!


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  • About the Author:Dr. Linda Sharkey, Ph.D.

    Dr. Linda  Sharkey, Ph.D.

    Dr. Linda Sharkey is Managing Director and Partner at Achieveblue Corporation, a global consultancy focused on accelerated leadership development and cultural transformation. Her focus is develop…

    Full Bio | More from Dr. Linda Sharkey, Ph.D.


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