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On values, culture and climate


The following is our response to a question about 'Which values are the best to have?'  We take a different view...

We've been involved in 'values realisation' and 'cultural transformations' for many years, developed competencies and established performance management systems that enshrine 'behaviours'.  We've trained thousands of leaders across all levels and developed and worked with many satisfaction and employee engagement surveys..

In all of this time what we have concluded is that:

1.  most people talk about 'culture' when its questionable whether they actually mean this or if this can actually be consciously changed;

2.  that posted values are all too often statements of things we would like to achieve but don't - yet!

3.  that the connections between these things and people's actual performance is far less clear and determinant than many 'solutions' assume.

We now take a different view.  Over the last 30 years the concept of 'workplace climate' has been established but is largely misunderstood.  Workplace climate has been shown to directly impact personal and organisational performance but should not be confused with 'culture' which is deeper and less malleable.  Climate is scalable and can be different between different teams, departments and organisations.  It has a reciprocal relationship with culture; so if you want to change the culture you change the climate and leave it over time.

Creation of the right climate is a leadership act and to a large extent reflects the manifest leadership behaviours. IE. to get the right climate leaders have to behave in ways that nurture it.  Thus measuring climate reveals the sum product of those behaviours and values rather than showing the superficial expression of them.

So what makes a high-performance climate?  Well the research shows the following factors to be significant:

Challenge & Involvement - the degree to which people are involved in daily operations, long-term goals and visions;

Freedom - The degree to which people have independence;

Trust & Openness - The emotional safety in relationships;

Idea-time - The amount of time people can and do use for elaborating new ideas;

Playfulness & Humour - The spontaneity and ease displayed within the workplace;

Conflict - The presence of personal and emotional tensions (this is a negative dimension);

Idea-support - The ways new ideas are treated;

Debate - The occurrence of encounters and disagreement between viewpoints, ideas, experiences and knowledge;

Risk-taking - The tolerance of ambiguity and risk.

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