The Prioritisation of a Culture Plan

In my blog ‘The Importance of a Culture Plan’, I described the power of a well thought-through culture planning process.  If you want to transform and effectively manage your culture, a Culture Plan brings many benefits.  But there are two that our customers talk about most.

  • First, a Culture Plan gives you a way of bringing the concept of culture ‘down to earth’.  It makes it concrete, real.  You start to clearly see the levers you can pull to transform it.
  • Second, it gives you a container that unifies every initiative across your organisation.  It informs them, bringing clarity and alignment with your cultural goals that is often lacking.  You minimise the risk, as happens all too often, that well-intended initiatives compete with, or even undermine, each other and your cultural transformation.
  • Thirdly a Culture Plan provides a cohent link between the Business Strategy and all the divisional stategies (Branding, People, Information Technology etc)

A Culture Plan ensures that these initiatives are guided by, speak the language of, and reinforce the goals and aspirations of your culture change.  Every ounce of energy and every dollar spent gets maximum return.

In this blog I will talk about how to set priorities in your Culture Plan, in a way that ensures you get maximum impact and returns.

When you set out on your culture change you may have many priorities in mind - all of them valuable.  After a cultural assessment (more on that in a later blog) some will seem even more critical. You might be convinced that they can’t be ignored.

My advice is always the same! In the first year take one, and only one.  Focus relentlessly on that.

So how do you choose?

Ask yourself, which will make the biggest difference to your organisation and your people?  What do you really want to show that you care about?  Of these, which can you really impact over a six- to twelve-month period?  This now becomes ‘priority number one’, the single factor that features in everything that is happening in every area of your organisation.

As you focus on this priority you will make huge strides.  What’s more, in our experience, you will see your other priority areas begin to move consistently as well - without giving them the extra, focused effort.

But to really make things concrete, you need another level of prioritisation.  There are so many things you can do to impact your chosen priority – where do you start?

We encourage our clients to think systematically about this by walking them through the categories of activity they might consider. For example:

  • What needs to happen in relation to the Executive Team and their development?
  • What about communications, or the work place environment? 
  • What systems or processes may need attention?
  • What must be considered in terms of leadership and broader people development initiatives?

Identify exactly what is already underway in each category and what might need to be introduced. Think about the investment required, the success criteria and metrics.

This requires a systematised process and use of a framework. You need to ensure that everything that matters is considered and that you make your eventual decisions based on the impact they will have. There is an organisational science involved here, and you must harness the experience and wisdom of your whole organisation to help you decide.

This means really listening to your people. By doing so, you will hear what matters most to them. You will also hear where there is ‘low hanging fruit’, quick wins that could send powerful signals about your culture change, without huge investment of time or money. These can be a powerful way to ‘get the water boiling’, to use the words of one of our clients.

Ultimately, the value of your Culture Plan comes from how robustly you can do all of this.  When the final decision on priorities is made, it is made once and for all, and you can pause the things you’re not going to do now.  This happens with full sign-off of the Executive and Leadership, who were all involved in crafting and challenging the Culture Plan.

In this way you lock arms around your priorities with confidence that, at the end of the first phase, you will be able show that everything you did, moved you towards your Target Culture. It all pointed to your ‘True North’.

If you are curious about how a Culture Plan could help your organisation, please contact us here.

Written by:
John Crossan

Culture Consultancy, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching

September 11, 2023