The Culture Muscle Part II: Building a Program to Strengthen Your Core Business

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As with core strength in the human body, a strong culture muscle is the central link in the chain that connects different parts of your organization. A weak core impairs movement and saps power; whereas a strong core cranks up power, enhances balance and stability, and prevents falls and injuries. A strong culture muscle will underpin almost everything that you business does. Where the first article in this series highlighted the importance of a strong culture muscle, this article will focus on some of the key elements and considerations in an effective culture core muscle building program.

In building a strong culture muscle, creating a program is a pivotal factor. It is important to identify a clear and attainable, yet ambitious program.

The first step in the process is to define objectives.  When doing this, consider the following:

  • What does the ‘victory condition’ look like to you? [i.e: What does a strong culture muscle look like in your business?] It is important to have a clear idea of where you are going, and it is equally important to note your progress, as your view of the ‘victory condition’ will shift and change. As your culture muscle gets stronger and stronger,“training” will become a habit, you will realize that working your culture muscle becomes a way of life.
  • Setting up an effective culture muscle building program requires some ground work. Some companies define their ideal culture in Culture Codes or Handbooks, such as Hubspot or Valve.
  • What makes your company a great place to be from? As Reed Hastings and Patty Mccord of Netflix said: “Let’s create a company that will be a great place to be from.”
  • What are the actions and behaviors that embody the strong culture muscle you are trying to create? This talk by Jay Wilkinson is a great starting point.

Once you have a clear idea of what a strong culture core muscle looks like in your organization, you need to plan your workouts. Only you know what the ebb and flow of work is like in your organization and how best to integrate culture workouts. Remember, whilst this program may be challenging in the short term - the long term benefits will be well worth it. Your culture muscle is the core strength of your business, building it needs to be a priority.

Some important things to consider:

  • Consistency is key. You cannot build a strong and durable culture muscle without regularly and consistently working on it. If you dedicate a month to working on your culture muscle and go ‘full tilt’ for that month, your culture may look and feel great at the end of that month. But if you then sit back and think, ‘our work here is done,’ you can be sure that your culture muscle will atrophy, and you will have made no sustainable difference in your organizations culture.  
  • When building your culture muscle you need to bring the whole organization on the journey. Be open and honest and  remove any barriers to entry that may exist. This culture muscle building program is for everyone, so solicit input and ideas from across the organization. Make it as inclusive as possible, letting people participate from the outset inherently creates ownership and buy-in.
  • Your culture muscle building program needs to be adaptable to what you need and when.It needs to be nimble.
  • Break down objectives into smaller, bite size chunks. A good exercise program is iterative, and the intensity builds gradually as your strength grows. If you work your culture muscle too hard initially, you will burn out and quite possibly injure yourself. These setbacks are easily avoidable by being realistic and conscious of the intended outcomes.  

A final thought. If you decide to do this, do it properly. Half-hearted workouts never get the desired results and we generally feel worse after them, rather than better. There will be times when you question whether all of the effort is worth it. I hear you, building your culture muscle requires a lot of work, but once it becomes a habit and you start seeing results, you will see how it was the best thing you could have ever done for yourself, your people, and your organization.  


About Andy

andy goldingA firm believer that 'Happy People Work Harder," Andy is driving the movement towards great company culture in South Africa, helping companies become Companies Behaving Awesomely. Building up the business case for great culture is core to her objective, which means she gets to spend a lot of time with Companies (already) Behaving Awesomely, drawing out their juiciest insights.

Whilst her focus is in South Africa at the moment, she's also busy with a Diploma in Spanish and a plan to take her work into other parts of the world in the not too distant future. As a sports fan and semi-adrenaline junkie, any free time not buried in books, is split between dancing (Hip-Hop and Salsa), Ultimate Frisbee, Yoga, and Krav Maga, as well as a recently discovered intrigue for rock-climbing. As you may have figured, she draws her inspiration from a pretty wide base!

About the Author

Andrea Golding


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