When a group gathers, a culture naturally develops. And that culture will change over time — especially if your work situation is changing. But will it change in the direction you want it to and support the organization, team, and results you want? Not necessarily. That’s why we need to intentionally and collaboratively think about the type of culture we want, so that we can create it.

7 Steps to Rebuild Your Company Culture

  1. Determine your moment.
  2. Communicate the reasons and start the process.
  3. Create a team.
  4. Paint the picture.
  5. Draft the cultural vision.
  6. Socialize and revise.
  7. Finalize and formally communicate the vision.


Embrace These Truths to Change Your Culture

There are two important truths hiding in plain sight. Getting your team on board with these truths is as important as buying in yourself. Until every member of the team sees and understands these things, you will have understandable, but unnecessary, resistance. 

  1. We can define and design a culture. Yes, culture exists naturally, but a group/team can consciously shift and change that culture. It won’t change instantly or by magic, but it can be intentionally altered. 
  2. If we are going to change it ,why not go big? Don’t put a limit on your aspirations. Once you realize you can define (and change) your culture, you can define what you want. There’s no need to settle for incremental improvement. 

In a world of distance work, in which so many feel culture is less clear or unstable and less able to be controlled/influenced, these are increasingly important truths. 

More on Company Culture5 Ways to Build a Healthy Workplace Culture


7 Steps to Develop Your Aspirational Culture

So, how do you define and create the culture you desire? 


1. Determine your moment

You can define an aspirational culture at any time, but determining the right moment to create an inflection point is important. If you know a reorganization is pending, if you have had a lot of turnover on the team or if new leadership is taking over, the time to change may be obvious. These may be the moments you are looking for, or they will help you determine when the best time might be. 


2. Communicate the Reasons and Start the Process 

Everyone needs to understand why you are changing, and why it matters. Moving toward an aspirational vision should be seen as change because it is one.

long distance team book jacket
The Long-Distance Team. | Image: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

And this is how you begin. Some of these reasons might be behind your desire to redefine culture in the first place: 

  • A merger or acquisition.
  • A major change in the marketplace.
  • Major changes in leadership, especially if there are style differences. 
  • Talent retention problems.
  • Morale or engagement issues.


3. Create a Team 

Determine who you will bring together to do the initial work and define your expectations of that group. In our experience, a team should consist of:

  • People who want to be involved. You want to recruit initial champions of change and those who are passionate about this work. Start with volunteers. 
  • People who represent the whole organization. Work from the list of volunteers to create a cross section of demographics, parts of the organization and organizational levels. 
  • People who represent the group. This team can bring their opinions, but they must think like representatives, not individuals. Ultimately the vision will go back to the larger organization, and this team will play a big role in communicating the first draft and getting feedback. 
  • The senior leader/sponsor. That person, perhaps it’s you, should participate in the conversations as a member, not as the leader. 
  • Not more than 20 people. If the group gets too big, the process will become unwieldy. While fewer than this is great for many group-dynamics reasons, for work of this type, scope and importance, you will likely want a few more. 
  • A facilitator. This will likely be someone from outside of the team or organization who can remain neutral and focus on the process. They should bring good facilitation skills and hopefully a good understanding of the goals and process we are outlining here. 


4. Paint the Picture

Determine the team’s picture of a perfect working culture and begin to see it. 


5. Draft the Cultural Vision

Once you have the picture, the team must put it into words so others see it in the same way. 


6. Socialize and Revise

Since not everyone was involved in creating the vision and statement, you must gain feedback to improve the vision and engage the team in discussion. 

More on Company CultureWhy Is Employee Engagement Important?


7. Finalize and Formally Communicate the Vision

An aspirational culture needs words associated with it. This is where you finalize the draft. Once it’s finalized, share it widely. Getting this feedback is important for these reasons:

  • The final vision will get better. As you get feedback the language will become clearer and more inclusive. 
  • Interest and energy will grow. Asking for feedback will raise energy and interest in the process and show people that the organization is serious about this effort. 
  • Ownership will grow. Giving people input helps to raise their feelings of ownership. After all, you are trying to create a collective vision, not one that came from a small group in a conference room. 
  • Anticipation will grow. People will begin to get excited about this future state! Even the most cynical will see value in moving toward the vision being presented. 
  • Change will start. You begin to move hearts and minds. Remember that you and the core team have greater understanding and acceptance then everyone else. It is easy to falsely assume that other people see what you see. Taking this widespread socialization step will help overcome this. 

Creating an aspirational culture for your team or organization can be exciting, but make sure to treat it as the organizational change effort that it is. It isn’t a new software system or a process change, it’s actually bigger. It’s the start of a reworking and rewiring of the organization — literally, how we do things — that can create greater organizational success far into the future. 


Excerpted from the book The Long-Distance Team: Designing Your Team for Everyone's SuccessCopyright © 2023 by The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

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