Building a high-performance culture

The increasing recognition of the importance of culture in creating sustained high performance raises three important questions: What is organisational culture? Why is it important? And, most importantly, how can you make your culture conscious? In other words, how do you measure it?

Richard Barrett, Chairman of the Barrett Values Centre

What is organisational culture?

The culture of an organisation is a reflection of the values and beliefs of the current leaders, and the institutional legacy of the values and beliefs of past leaders that have been institutionalised into the organisation’s structures, policies and procedures. Therefore, if you want to transform your culture, you must change your leaders or your leaders must change. You must also review the organisation’s structure, policies, procedures and incentives to ensure that they fully reflect the values you want your organisation to espouse.

Why is culture important?

Culture is the key to commitment, and commitment is the key to employee engagement. Commitment arises when the organisation provides employees with opportunities to satisfy their needs and desires. The needs and desires of employees are determined by the stage of psychological development they are at and the needs of the stages of development they have passed through which they have not yet mastered. In other words, employees feel committed when they can meet their survival, safety and security needs, and when their work gives them a sense of meaning—when they are able to fully express their creativity, connect with others to make a difference, and make a lasting contribution to the well-being of humanity and the planet.

How do you make your culture conscious?

You make your culture conscious by measuring it. This involves carrying out a baseline cultural diagnostic (Cultural Values Assessment), including data cuts for each business unit, department and team, as well as data cuts for demographic categories such as gender and age. The results of the values assessment will allow you to identify the cultural health of the organisation and the cultural health of the sub-cultures that exist in different business units, locations, departments and teams. It will also tell you precisely what you need to change to create a high-performance organisation.

You can learn more about the Barrett Values Centre’s Cultural Transformation Tools by clicking here.

You can find out more about the book The Values-driven Organization clicking here.

You can explore the values that inform your own decision-making by following this link.

  • John Engle

    This is a great article and interview with Richard. Our small organization, found this cultural assessment tremendously helpful. We went through the entire exercise in two languages with our two separate boards, one in Haiti and one in US and with our Haitian and American staff. The assessment and analysis of it along with discussions led to us collectively establishing our five core values, which are on this website page: Our school in Haiti is also a values-based organization and we strive for a values based education. More at I can’t say enough about Richard Barrett’s work and that of his Barrett Values Centre team.