The Importance of a Culture Plan

We heard repeatedly at the CIPD Festival of Work last month that culture is centre-stage for many organisations right now. Despite this, a lot of HR leaders (and leaders more generally) seem to have one of two major frustrations around culture.

  • First, they feel the impact of culture (for better or worse) every day. But many HR leaders and their Executive colleagues can’t bring this abstract concept ‘down to earth’. They lack the levers to proactively manage and influence culture with intent.
  • Second, those already trying to shift their cultures through various well-meaning and potentially valuable initiatives often find their efforts and investment fail to have the impact and returns they hoped for.

We find that these frustrations often result from one critical gap in the whole approach - there is no coherent, practical Culture Plan.

When we talk about a Culture Plan we’re often met with two responses in quick succession. ‘We thought we’d done that’, then ‘What was missing?!’

When a Culture Plan is flawed or, as we often find, completely missing from the outset, culture remains hard to grasp and even harder to influence. And, the various initiatives intended to shift culture risk contradicting each other, competing with each other or diluting the behavioural alignment and cultural shift you’re aiming for.

A Culture Plan gets you clear at the very start what your cultural priority is. Your identify - the 'True North' for your organisation, in culture terms. This ‘Target Culture’ is boot strapped to your overall business plan in exactly the same way as your Marketing, People, Financial and Operations Plans are.

This coherent document sets out the end goal for the culture, the measures to show progress, key milestones, focus areas, and prioritisation – which is critical. Everything in the organisation then has clear focus on your current cultural priority. You know how every initiative, every interaction, contributes to nudging your culture in the right direction.

In the next blog we’ll share more about this. In particular we’ll unpack our observation that you don’t need to pull every lever right away. This often comes as a relief - by focusing on ‘Priority Number 1’, you’ll make a much greater impact than if you spread your efforts too thinly.

Written by:
John Crossan

Culture Consultancy, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching

July 10, 2023