Case Study: Future Culture

Case Study: Future Culture

Case Study: Future Culture


A strategic planning process raised concerning questions about a College’s ability to respond to significant external changes. Challenging new strategies needed to be executed cohesively by VPs, Deans and Directors, requiring a significant transformation in programs, structures and systems, but underlying it all was the worrisome factor, its current culture. The President and the Strategy Office asked Culture-Strategy Fit to help its top leaders develop a unified vision about the culture needed to deliver the strategy, the role they needed to play in its transformation and the behaviors to be valued in making this happen.

Culture work began with a day long session to articulate the Future Culture needed to deliver the new strategy and the behaviors that would contribute most to strengthening culture. Following preliminary activities to develop a shared definition of organizational culture, we ran our Chocolate Factory Leadership Simulation to explore the way the current leadership culture was operating to both support and impede high performance and strategy. This immersive simulation allowed the leaders to experience the way their group norms of behavior were influencing the effectiveness of decision making, planning, risk taking, collaboration, innovation and compliance. Leaders still refer to this as the ‘wake up call’ that sparked the transformation ahead.

The leaders then painted a picture of the Future Culture using Culture Cards and the Culture Images activity. After narrowing focus to specific aspects of culture that needed to be preserved, strengthened or developed, the group described what these would look like in terms of behaviors, beliefs and assumptions. Internal resources were then able to lead processes for validating the future culture by engaging the organization. Advisory services and leader meetings continued for 18 months.

What was missing was a set of Core Values to anchor decision making and actions. It was clear that some Accidental Values (Lencioni 2002) had emerged over time that were undermining performance. To start the Values conversation, we asked 40 of the top leaders and influencers to gather to share their stories of values in action when the College was operating at its best. Top leaders carefully prepared a story from their own experience and shared these in detail at tables. Stories that resonated with members at a table were analyzed by them for underlying values. Stories and values were then shared across tables, building agreement around those that truly reflected ‘us at our best’. A second meeting helped generate descriptors of the behaviors and beliefs that evidenced these Values. The OD team was now ready to engage the next level of leaders, employees and stakeholders in testing these values and descriptors. Following a year of consultation, the Core Values were approved and integrated into Human Capital processes and systems.

This College is celebrating its 50th year in 2017 and has shifted to new kinds of innovative programs and processes that will lead the way for its community and its students into their future.

Approach: We Help

Tools: CULTURE-STRATEGY FIT® Chocolate Factory Leadership Simulation, Culture Cards, Culture Images