Organizational culture, what organizational culture?


An organization’s culture is a complex system with a multitude of interrelated processes and mechanisms that keep it humming along.   Sometimes it is hard for the leadership team to really understand the culture of the organization they lead.

This is true particularly if they follow the traditional pattern and don’t move much from the leadership floor!

The leading team may think they determine the culture when they agree a vision and define the values that go with it.

“Oh yes, we are on a mission and we have a mission statement too! It is all in the hands of our Comm’s Director, so I’m sure people understand what it means and reflect it in our culture!”

Really? Unless those vision and mission statements are truly reinforced throughout the organization, they can be meaningless in terms of the culture.

So how do you know what is happening where you are?  Well here are a few questions for you to think about;

  • Are your organization’s vision and values reflected in performance reviews and training programmes?
  • What about you financial reward systems – do they reinforce them?
  • What about memos and communications do they highlight what the leadership team thinks are important.
  • What about management actions — for example, are more junior promotions for people who toe the line or are they for people who go out on a limb to pursue your vision?

In reality, in most organizations the culture develops unconsciously and organically to create a system that, while not always ideal, does work.

Changing a culture is a real challenge!  It is hard to do without losing the good things you have now.

Of course, that assumes as a leadership team, you are clear about the good things you have now!

If you are serious about your vision and you really want to see your values in practice, then you may have some hard work ahead!

But, of course, until you understand the culture you have now, you won’t know what you need to do, will you?

Time to start asking some questions, I think!

  • Vision Statement (
  • Value based leadership (
  • How Does the Quality of Leadership Impact Employee Motivation? (

I am Wendy Mason and I work as a Personal Development Coach, Consultant and Writer I work with all kinds of people going through many different kinds of personal and career change, particularly those;

  • looking for work
  • looking for promotion or newly promoted
  • moving between Public and Private Sectors
  • facing redundancy
  • moving into retirement

I am very good at helping you sort out what you want, overcome obstacles and handle change.   Email me at for more information

Top Cat is Away – Will the Mice Play?

Our place
Image by gomveron via Flickr
 “I always find going on holiday an incredibly stressful experience. Not the trip itself, but finding the right time to go. There’s always something going on at work that you feel like you ought to be there for, or you worry about someone else being away at the same time, or… Well, ok, some of them are probably just feeble excuses for the fact that you just don’t want to leave your baby all on its own. But it is hard to find a good time.”

Do you recognise these words? Spoken or unspoken is this how you feel each year?

Most families take a holiday of some kind during the summer. But I’ve known leaders who don’t really join in.

Yes, the body is there but where is the mind? Oh yes, they leave the office for a week or so. They may even visit their villa abroad or a nice five star hotel somewhere. But access to a phone service and good wifi are a priority and, back at base, they know to expect a call from the boss at least twice a day.

I wonder if these “supermen” (it does tend to be men) know how silly the blackberry and the laptop look when used on a sun bed. But, of course, they are much too senior for anyone to tell them. Do you know the fable of the emperor’s new clothes?

I’m not talking here about the poor middle manager whose boss only agreed to a break, if they agreed to stay in touch. I’m taking about senior people who don’t feel they have a place in the world unless their work needs them.

In this day and age, it is a dangerous way to think, even if you are at the top of the tree. It is dangerous for you in an age of uncertainty and it throws up questions about your leadership style.

Flexible organisations that can cope with a changing economic climate require distributed leadership. If a change happens locally, you need your local managers to feel empowered to lead a response from where they are without reference to you; you need them to take quick, clever action!

Have you have established a meaningful vision and a broad strategy to achieve it? Do your people feel empowered to make good decisions?   Have you treated them decently? So, shouldn’t you be able to trust them to make good decisions on your behalf?

If you have pointed the ship in the right direction, shouldn’t they know how to keep it going?  Certainly over a one or two week break. Of course you need to be available for a real emergency.

That just leaves you with the problem of how to impress your fellow holiday makers round the pool, of course. But I’ll leave you to meditate on that one.

I am Wendy Mason. I work as a Personal Development Coach,

 Consultant and Writer.I have worked with many different kinds of people going through all kinds of personal and career change, particularly those

  • looking for promotion or newly promoted,
  • moving between Public and Private Sectors
  • moving into retirement.

I am very good at helping you sort out what you want, overcome obstacles and handle change. I offer face to face, telephone and on-line coaching by email or Skype

Email me at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 to find out more. 

  • Five Myths of Leadership (
  • What kind of boss do you have? (

Vision Statement

Bushman's Paradise at Spitzkoppe
Image via Wikipedia

Your   vision;

  1. Articulates your dreams and hopes for your business.
  2. Reminds you of what you are trying to build.
  3. Captures your passion.
  4. Defines your purpose and values.
  5. Should be your inspiration.
  6. Determines your priorities.
  7. Is a long-term view.
  8. Defines the way the  organization will look in the future.
  9. Sets the direction for your business planning
  10. Influences decision making and the way you allocate resources.
  11. Is for you and the other members of your organization.

Your vision is not

  1. A map to tell you how you’re going to get to the promised land
  2. For just for one year or two
  3. For your customers or clients although it can be shared with them
  4. Owned by you alone.

Visions only work if you share them with others – spread the Power, spread the Purpose, spread the Passion.

Formal Definition – A vision statement is an aspirational description of what an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serve as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action. See also mission statement. Courtesy of
  • Leading Change – do you have a great vision? (

Leading Change and the virtue of patience

Image of the glassharmonica, invented by Benja...
The glassharmonica invented by Benjamin Franklin
 “He that can have patience can have what he will.” Benjamin Franklin courtesy of Wally Bock  (who liked the earlier version of this). 

As some will know, I’ve been working my way through Kotter’s eight steps in change leadership again recently. Step Six is to create short-term wins.

Most of the post below was written a little time ago.  It was so well received that is doesn’t make sense to change it entirely but I have added a couple of further thoughts. 

Nothing motivates and gives people confidence more than success. Give your company and your team a taste of victory early in the change process. Within a short time frame (this could be a month or a year, depending on the type of change), you’ll want to have results that your top team and staff can see. Without this, critics, negative thinkers and cynics might hurt your progress.

Big bang changes are fraught with risk and danger; so it makes sense, if you can, to break your change down into manageable modules.  This gives you the opportunity to create short-term targets.  These then build up to your overall long-term goal rather than having just one long-term event. It means you get early benefits.

You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure, particularly the early ones. Your change team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each “win” that you produce can further motivate and inspire the entire organization. Your early wins inpire confidence so that people are prepared to stay with you for the rest of the journey.

What you can do:

  • Look for sure-fire projects that you can implement relatively quickly and without help from any strong critics of the change.
  • Don’t choose early targets that are expensive. You want to be able to justify the investment in each project.
  • Choose achievements with tangible results that are easily understood and, if possible, bring benefits to many
  • Thoroughly analyze the potential pros and cons of your targets and make sure you really understand what is required. If you don’t succeed with an early goal, it can hurt your entire change initiative.
  • Reward the people who help you meet the targets.
  • Publicize what you have done – get out there and wave your flags

I’d welcome your thoughts on this and if you would like help in leading or managing your change, please get in touch.

A Kotter Reading List for you;

  • Leading Change – dealing with fears and facing up to resistance (
  • Leading Change – get your vision into people’s minds and keep it there! (
  • Leading Change – Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition (
  • Leading Change – deciding who leads! (

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 or 

Leading Change – dealing with fears and facing up to resistance

Recently I’ve been writing about John Kotter’s eight stage process for leading and managing change.  Stage 5 is about empowering action, over coming resistance and getting rid of obstacles to change.

This is where your investment in Stages 1 to 4, begins to pay dividends.

Kotter himself states that when Stages 1 to 4 are skipped, resistance is inevitable and this can destroy your change.

People resist change because they fear loss.  They believe they are defending something they value which feels threatened.   This can include loss of security, power, resources and overall loss of control.  Most of us fear the unknown.

If you have followed the earlier Kotter steps when you reach this point, you will have been talking about your vision and building up buy-in from all levels of the organization. Hopefully, your group will want to get busy and be out there achieving the benefits that you’ve been promoting.

But there may still be some resisting the change!  There may be people (individuals or groups), processes, structures and even organizations that are getting in the way?

You not only need to put in place the structure for change, but check continually for barriers and blockers to it.

Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision and it certainly helps them move the change move forward.

To remove obstacles you should

  • Identify, or hire, change leaders whose main roles are to deliver the change.
  • Look at your organizational structure, job descriptions and performance and compensation systems to ensure they’re in line with your vision.
  • Recognize and reward people for making change happen.
  • Identify people who are resisting the change and help them see what’s needed.
  • Take action quickly to remove barriers (human or otherwise).

To remove barriers of the human kind

  • Help them understand the logic behind the change.
  • Give them an opportunity to contribute – to help design and implement the change (e.g., ideas, task forces, committees).
  • Provide facilitation & coaching to help them adjust to the change.
  • Offer incentives to those who continue to resist change.

If all else fails, and this change is critical to the organization, use authority to get people to accept the change or to move sideways and, possibly, out.

This can be one of the most challenging stages for the Change Leader but – as I’ve written here many times before – no one told you change was going to be easy!

A Kotter Reading List for you;

  • Leading Change – deciding who leads! (
  • Leading Change – Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition(
  • Leading Change – get your vision into people’s minds and keep it there! (

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you.  Email her at or ring ++44(0)7867681439

Leading Change – get your vision into people’s minds and keep it there!

shining light 2

I’ve written a lot here about the Kotter Model for leading change.  Recently I’ve been working my way through his various stages yet again because they always provide something new to think about. I’ve also written a lot about communication. Stage four of the Kotter process is about communicating your vision.

What you do with your vision after you create it and how you communicate it, will determine whether your change works, or not.

Your message is likely to have a lot of competition. It will probably have strong competition from other day-to-day communications within the company. As well as that, if your change is really significant you can expect the rumour mill to go to work spreading bad news. So you need to communicate your vision frequently and powerfully. You and your guiding team need to walk the talk and embed message in everything that you do.

Don’t just call special meetings to communicate your vision. Instead, talk about it every chance you get. The guiding team need to be visible and let people see you as the embodiment of the change you intend to make.

The top team should be using the vision daily to make decisions and solve problems. And so should all those who are actively engaged. Keep it fresh and on everyone’s minds,  then they will begin to remember it and respond to it.

What you do is far more important – and believable – than what you say.

Make sure the whole guiding team demonstrates the kind of behaviour that you want from others.

Make sure you

  1. Talk often about your vision to make it real.
  2. Be authentic – openly and honestly address peoples’ concerns and anxieties.
  3. Apply your vision to all aspects of operations – from training to performance reviews.
  4. Tie everything back to the vision. Lead and manage by example.

A Kotter Reading List for you;

  • Leading Change – deciding who leads! (
  • Leading Change – Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition (
  • Leading Change – Your Vision in an Uncertain Future – Scenario Planning (

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you.  Email her at or ring ++44(0)7867681439

Leading Change – do you have a great vision?

A great vision needs to be about the future but it will fail if it is not firmly rooted in the present. You may wish to change a group but you can’t ignore its history, culture and organization.  Most of all you need to make sure there is a connection to its values.

This is where those who are new to the organization sometimes come adrift when leading and managing change.  Even if you are trying to move existing values on, you cannot totally ignore them in your vision for the future.  Somehow in your change, those in the existing organization need to feel that their present values are being honoured.

Your vision needs to have roots but it needs to be future focussed and challenging – it needs to reflect and set high standards, and high ideals.  Make your vision something that people will want to live up to.  That means it will keep chins high when you hit the difficult patches!

Your vision should inspire – you want it to raise enthusiasm and commitment. It is much more likely to do that if it touches the needs and aspirations of all those who have a stake in it.  This includes not only those inside the organization but also clients, customers, users and, if possible, your suppliers.

Make sure your vision can be understood – communicate it well.  Make it clear and unambiguous! Paint pictures when you talk about it that people can take away and imagine for themselves.  Make this a future they can see in their minds and want to be a part of.

Make your vision unique and distinctive – not to be confused with where we said we were going five years ago.  This must be special.

Above all make your vision ambitious!  Make sure that people can see that real progress will have been made when your vision is achieved.  This should be a vision that expands everyone’s horizons.

So to sum up your vision needs to be

  1. Appropriate to your history, culture and values
  2. Challenging with high standards and high ideals
  3. Inspirational
  4. Aspirational – reflecting the aspirations of all those with an interest
  5. Understandable
  6. Distinctive
  7. Ambitious

I’d love to hear you experience of working with visions – what has worked for you and what has not worked?

  • Leading Change – Your Vision in an Uncertain Future – Scenario Planning (
  • Leading Change – deciding who leads! (
  • Leading Change – Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition (

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you.  Email her at or ring ++44(0)7867681439

Teddy Bears, Comfort Zones and Big Adventures

There is a wonderful illustration and I think it is in Winnie-the-Pooh!  It shows Christopher Robin disappearing off on another adventure hand in paw with his wonderful teddy bear!

Teddy bears are marvelous companions when you are off on a great adventure!

For children, alongside the other positive benefits of having security objects like teddy bears, is that they can help them adapt to new situations.  The stress of something new is eased by having something familiar and comforting!

For some adults too soft toys and comfort blankets help them deal with stress! Holding on to your cuddly toy can help you be brave enough to venture outside your comfort zone.

Comfort zones are the living, work and social environments that we have built for ourselves and become accustomed to. They can determine the type of friends we make, the people we associate with and the life style we accept or reject.

But staying in your comfort zone can mean that your life has a fence around it! Your life can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and you never venture out to grow and change.

To change to a different life style, establishing a business or succeeding at a challenging project,  you need to move out of your comfort  zone and into the unfamiliar.

If you want to change a group, you need to persuade them to move with you out their comfort zones into the great big and frightening world.  And not everyone will have their own Winnie-the-Pooh at home as a special friend to help them feel confident moving passed the gate. It can feel very risky!

So you, as the leader, have a lot of work to do.

You will need to make clear why your group cannot stay where they are!  They can no longer live within their existing comfort zone.

It is up to you to paint a picture of the future so strong they begin to imagine it for themselves.  You need to share a vision so meaningful, it is worth them venturing with you into the dark.

And you need to establish a bond of trust so strong that they can take the risk and move forward.

I would love to hear about your adventures out in that big, wide world.

As for me I lost my treasured teddy bear some years ago.  But luckily by then, just as good bears should,  he had taught me all he knew about managing without him!

  •  Thoughts on visioning and 10 ways to be better at it
  • Kotter Step Four Communicate the Vision
  • Managing Change! Is it painful? You bet it is!

Wendy Mason works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her or ring ++44(0)7867681439

Can you lead a horse to water?

I came across a website offering a leadership seminar based on horse whispering.  That looked interesting to me – I like horses.

I gather horse whispering is more about listening than whispering.

The professional horse men and women who practice this skill understand how to read the body language of horses and have usually spent many years studying the psychology of the horse.  I gather nervous horses learn that it is often a wise move to stand still near a ‘safe person’, than attempt to run away from a dreaded situation.  It is all about winning trust!

To gain a horse’s confidence you need to learn when to be still and quiet and just leave things to the horse. They sense the underlying state of mind of a person, so it is impossible to bluff a horse.

Yes, I can recognise this and how horse whispering could teach us something as leaders!

Leadership isn’t about shouting the message to get your vision across.  Yes, you do need to communicate it frequently and clearly.  But it is as much about listening to the responses you get back from your people, as telling them;

  • What signs do you have that the vision in your head matches the one in theirs?
  • Have you listened to their reservations?
  • Have you got answers to the questions they ask?
  • What can you learn from your most valued asset, your own team?
  • What is their body language telling you.
  • Yes, they are telling you they are enthusiastic but does the body language match the words?

As for the nervous horses, well, when faced with significant change we all get nervous!

Horses are prepared stand near a safe person they trust when they are nervous.  Do your team have enough trust to stand with you as you go through your major change?

I hope you don’t try bluffing your people; you won’t get away with it! Don’t even try it!  If horses can understand your underlying state of mind, so can your team.  Times of change are times for authenticity and honesty, otherwise your most precious horses might bolt and you certainly will not be first past your own particular winning post!

So if anyone has been to a leadership seminar based on horse whispering, I’d love to hear from them.  Does anyone know of other courses based on our relationship with animals?  I’m interested in all, but wolves would be a particular favourite of course!

Wendy Mason works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her or ring ++44(0)7867681439

Falling at the first jump; the real value of a change management process.

There is much to be said for being a flexible organisation willing to embrace change.

Enthusiasm is infectious!

Once you get a taste for change, galloping off to follow a new vision can be very exciting!

But there are risks attached, as the IT industry has learned at some cost!

A basic requirement for formal projects of all kinds is to have a change management process. Built into the arrangements will be a procedure for determining what will be gained but also what will be lost, delayed or made more costly as a result.

This process will require the person proposing the change to identify real benefits and real costs. What is going to be gained but also what is involved in delivering the change.  This procedure will also make quite clear at the start who is to sign off the change, who should be consulted and how the decision should be recorded.

It’s a little bit of governance that the IT industry in particular learned the hard way not to avoid. Without some kind of control over change, IT projects can all too easily spiral out of control. They can become undeliverable or too costly and everyone ends up disappointed.

It is no different really to getting someone in to refit your kitchen and deciding half way through that you’ve decided to change your microwave for a range cooker. Oh, and by the way, you are thinking you might knock down a wall and go open plan!

Sadly some organisations decide to make changes to their structure along the lines of our chums with the kitchen

Someone suggests a change that fires the board or the boss with enthusiasm and off they canter towards the far horizon. Half way there the enthusiasm dies as they realise the real costs and just how difficult it is going to be!

It would be much better to take the time out at the beginning to think things through and take some advice.

It won’t be as enjoyable as just galloping off into the sunset but it will mean there is much more chance of getting somewhere, or at least knowing whether “somewhere” is a place you want to visit!

Have you been part of an organisation that just cantered off?  What was it like for you?  Have you been an IT supplier who struggled to get a client to go through a proper change management process? What happened?