Would you like to change your organizational culture? Make desired behavior explicit and bring unwritten rules out of the shadows!

Culture; a fairly vague concept, yet everyone manages to give it a description. You probably recall the observing attitude that arises when you enter another family's home, visit another country, or experience the dynamics of a group for the first time. (Un)consciously, you take note of what is or isn't customary. What is being discussed here? What is valued? Or what isn't? What behavior or story can you expect a positive reaction to? In addition to families, countries, and groups of people, organizations also have their own culture. (Un)written rules set boundaries for employees' behavior in the background. If you want to develop your organizational culture, you must bring these unwritten rules out of the shadows and make them explicit. Therefore, Highberg's approach is aimed at converting the versatility of culture into behavior and concrete roles, creating control over the desired cultural change and the implementation and support of this change.


An organizational culture encompasses all common norms, values, both written and unwritten rules, and behavior within an organization. These elements determine how activities are carried out and what is encouraged or hindered. This culture is dynamic and open to influences from internal and external factors. External influences can, for example, come from societal developments such as the MeToo movement, which brought about shifts in countless organizations. Internally, changes can occur due to the arrival of a new generation with different ways of thinking, or for example, due to a rapid succession of changes within the management team.

Because organizational culture comes into play in every collaboration and decision, it has a significant impact on the daily activities of employees. You can let the culture development run freely or consciously develop it. We believe in consciously developing a desired organizational culture. In our experience in culture development projects, we have identified four success factors.

1. Elaborate culture into concrete behavior

We start by making explicit the current behavior and the behavior that belongs to the desired culture and represent them in a from-to format.

2. Bring culture ambassadors together

In addition to formal leaders, informal leaders have a significant influence on the culture and thus the culture development. It is important to bring these culture carriers together so that they form unity.

3. Set up support by establishing a culture compass

By now, it is known which concrete behavior fits the desired culture and which key figures in the organization will embody this. It is now relevant to make it concrete and manageable. We do this by establishing a culture compass. A representation of the three or four core values, each with a couple of guiding principles that serve as a guide for decision-making. Think of: 'We rely on talents and let go when something is delegated' or 'We adjust based on facts and test our assumptions'. The compass is always tailored, fitting the organization, its employees, and the desired results.

4. Promote culture through leaders and internal communication: show-do-support

We naturally don't send the key figures in your organization back into the organization without further support. Sustainable culture development benefits from providing the right support in this development. Therefore, we will first show what to do, then stand alongside the leader or employee so that they can then sustainably continue themselves. Support also comes from within, including by involving HR and internal marketing or communication specialists from the beginning, so that regular success stories of employees can be shared, in line with the culture compass. This way, the desired culture is further colored in, comes to life, and leaders are supported in their message by the internal organization.

'Anything you give attention to, grows,' is a saying that probably sounds familiar. Unwritten rules in the shadows pass you by in the daily routine. But by making behavior explicit in the culture compass, it is possible to focus the attention of (in)formal leaders and internal communication specialists on the desired behavior. Because with the right attention, you can develop any behavior and thus organizational culture.


Want to know more?

Are you ready to scrutinize the culture within your organization and develop it to support the desired transformation? Then contact Lianne Swenne.

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