(This post is written for alumni of LEAD 365, although all are welcome to read it.)

We’ve just spent time taking our sixth and seventh cohorts through our session on shaping culture. We took one group to one of our favorite places to teach this, Feyen Zylstra. We took the other group to a new place for us, Anna’s House restaurant. Both of these organizations are intentional about how they define and then shape their corporate culture.

Gerald Alvaro, our newest team member, presents a visual example of what shaping culture is like. He takes some Thinking Putty (similar to Silly Putty), and creates a pyramid out of it. The pyramid represents a nicely shaped organizational culture. As the teaching goes on, participants see the putty slowing lose it’s shape until it becomes a blob.

I like his representation of how this relates to shaping culture. It not only shows the hard work of deciding what to define for the culture (ie: deciding to what to make out of the putty) and doing the hard work of shaping it in the first place (ie: forming the putty into the pyramid in front of the group); it also reinforces that culture needs constant attention or it will quickly degrade back into a cultural blob.

This ongoing shaping is done by what is said and what is posted on walls, but more importantly, by what is celebrated and what is tolerated.

You may recall us quoting Peter Drucker, who said,

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Of course, good strategy is very important to an organization. But culture is also very important—maybe more so that strategy. Culture often gets much less attention than strategy does, which can happen at an organization’s slow peril.

I have a couple questions I have for you to consider this week:

  • How well have you intentionally defined the culture you want in your organization?
  • How well are you continuing to shape that culture by what gets celebrated and what gets tolerated?

We would love to hear some examples of things you’re doing to make your culture specific and great. Thanks for growing the culture of West Michigan, one organization at a time!


Image by denn. Used under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.