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Seven Steps to Improving Your Department’s Culture

By Lisa Woods (839 words)
Posted in Leadership & Teambuilding on June 28, 2012

There are (13) comments permalink

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There are many philosophies out there on corporate culture.  Some say that it needs to be cultivated over time, but there are ways you can influence your corporate culture by leading change.  Culture is perceived.  That means that if you change perception, you can change culture.  Here are seven steps to improving your department’s culture.


Step One:  Define how your department is currently perceived internally (by each member of your department), by other departments in your company, by individuals who work with you, or by customers that interact with you.


Step Two:  Identify the differences in perception researched in step one.  There are two things that represent your culture.

1)   The fact that there are differing opinions about what your department does.

2)   The fact that individuals within your department have different perspectives on what they should be doing.


Step Three: Clearly define, as a team, what others should expect from your department.  What is your mission, your departmental charter, what services do you provide, what level of performance can be expected.   You may need to document some things that you don’t do in order to clarify expectations.  Make sure you can define where people should go for things your department will not be doing anymore.


Step Four:  Train your department on what you came up with in step three.  Make sure they are on the same page and properly trained to preform uniformly. 


Step Five: Train other departments in your company and/or your customers on what to expect from your department.  Share your mission, charter, services and expectations.


Step Six: Make your mission, charter, services and expectations a visual living document.  Create posters for the walls in your department, in the conference room, or wherever you can to make it clear to everyone.


Step Seven: Measure your success based on living up to your new defined expectations.  There should be no question as to what is expected.  Use it as a tool to develop and to discipline employees.  If someone does not live up to these new expectations, retrain them, focus them, or remove them.


Most corporate cultures are defined by chaos.  By weeding through the chaos and defining expectations, training to achieve those expectations and measuring your performance based on those expectations, you will not only be able to influence improvement, but achieve a measurable change in your department’s culture…hopefully setting the example for other areas of your company to follow suit.


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I hope this perspective is helpful to you in your day-to-day life.  Test out these concepts and share your results with us.  Others can benefit from your experiences.  Good luck!


Written by Lisa WoodsPresident ManagingAmericans.com

Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, world-class marketing strategist, and dynamic business leader with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth. Throughout her career, Lisa has been influential in integration techniques, organizational and cultural overhauls, financial turnarounds and developing employees into exceptional leaders, results driven managers and passionate team contributors.


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At ManagingAmericans.com we encourage members to go in and out of our communities to learn about different areas of business; how to work together, solve problems and improve skills.  Each community details expectations, challenges, success tips, training programs and useful resources. Growing your knowledge base and learning about all areas of business can help you navigate towards success in your career.

Comments (13)

Col Mukteshwar Prasad posted on: June 29, 2012

Leading a change in any department/organisation is based on Newton's law of inertia i.e. application and sustenance of force to ensure the organisation is moving in right direction .Midcourse correction by application of suitable acceleration is what is necessary.
Yes identification of perception gap between Department and others are essential and documentation and its visibility is essential. What matters most is unified undersatanding of the role of the Department and motivation ,competence and comfort to stand up for Depatment's honour which can only be inculcated by a good leader.

Robert Navarro posted on: June 29, 2012

Great article! Thanks for posting.

Vivien Reyes posted on: June 29, 2012

Thanks for sharing Lisa. No two company cultures are the same. There are company cultures that are playful and fun. Some are intense and driven. Whichever your company belongs to, just make sure that it motivates, energizes and inspires your employees.

Dar'shun Kendrick,Esq./M.B.A. posted on: July 25, 2012

Culture is so important! It takes 7-10 years to change it but if you have one that's working, never hurts to improve it.

David Williams posted on: July 25, 2012

Hi Lisa, Would this department initiative not be a waste of time if not supported by the organization's executive management and/or could it even happen without their support?

Lisa Woods posted on: July 25, 2012

Hi David, It can absolutely be done within a department, and without support from executive management. Leading by example can start a cultural change no matter where you are located in the company. If you take a look at any company...different managers have different styles and cultures already exist. Why not change what you can control?

David Williams posted on: July 25, 2012

Thanks for your reply Lisa. I'm all for change that brings about improvement in an organization. I've seen executive management shut down department initiatives, so the department manager (who I assume would be the leader of the initiative) would need the necessary freedom to make this a reality.

Allan Gatenby posted on: August 6, 2012

Well done. Thought provoking and practical. I particularly enjoyed the comment about chaos. Identifying the threads and themes is perhaps the most powerful way forward. Thanks.

David Mullin posted on: August 13, 2012

Researchers actually disagree to as what culture is. Whilst some believe that the core values reflect the company's culture, others believe that it really reflects the behaviors and attitudes of the time. Consider that culture is the personality of the company; the intangibles that determine how and why they respond the way they do.

Developing culture was a significant mention in my entrepreneurial studies. The culture of a start-up will generally derive from the vision and values of the founder (and founding team). Of course, for culture to create a competitive advantage, , the values, practices and behaviors need to align with the goals, processes and tasks at hand.

Marius de Beer (Dr.) posted on: August 13, 2012

Short and sweet.!

Rick Maher posted on: August 13, 2012

Very well done and yes, short and sweet! Of course the "devil in these details" comes with how big the gap between "as-is" and "should be" happens to be and, more importantly, whether managers have built the trust and empowerment levels to be able to engage staff in the new vision. That may not be as short or as sweet:)

Ravi Rao M posted on: August 13, 2012

Logical and systematic, a nice approach.

To build on what you've offered, I think your Steps One, Two, Three often are tough because groups don't even know (or imagine) what their cultural options might be. It just seems like it's a "given" that a culture is a particular way.

As I note in my new book, "Emotional Business", I think there are nine emotional/cultural models that successful organizations use: progress, peace, nurturance, inspiration, imagination, inclusion, gratitude, fun, and friendship. The "black hole" cultures are ones where fear and greed drive behavior (i.e. "carrots and sticks" isn't culture).

Thijs Panneman posted on: April 14, 2013

I like your seven steps!

In Lean terms: clear expectations both within and between departments is the first step to minimize management-waste, the need to manage miscommunication between departments. Also, you will have all employees working on the same goals or KPI, which creates focus and therefore faster improvement in performance.

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