I have been talking a lot about my Six Step Flourishing Culture Assessment© these days and that’s a good thing. Some people want to know more about what I do. Others have questioned my decision to design my own survey instrument. As one person said, “There are so many surveys out there. Why not get certified in one of them?” And yes. There are a lot of surveys and companies that administer them. A quick search for “culture assessment” on Google yields 153,000,000 results. Like my friend, you might question, why another survey?
I adhere to the Edgar Schein school of thought about surveys. Schein (2009) put forth the notion that pre-packaged surveys might: (1) contain a lot of questions that don’t pertain to the organization’s issues; and (2) frame questions in a way that sets expectations the organization is unwilling and not ready to tackle.
The way the survey is administered also impacts its usefulness. Many organizations use online surveys. It’s an efficient use of resources but, in my opinion, it has downsides. Schein’s concern about people misunderstanding survey questions is amplified when people take online surveys because they are engaging in a solo activity. And, it’s been my experience that only about 33% of a workforce takes an online survey. If the survey respondents are not representative of the total population in the organization, how valid can the findings be?
My thoughts about assessing the culture of an organization are based on real experiences. In my capacity as an independent contractor for another consulting firm, I have assessed the culture of large industrial organizations for the past 17 years. I have seen first-hand how a cultural assessment, of which the survey instrument is one part, can be a catalyst for change.
The numbers satisfy a need for a metric, but I question their relevance absent the anecdotal information. To me, survey data tells you what questions to ask. Through “donning your organizational anthropologist hat,“ you learn about culture; not through numbers, but through interactions and observations. You capture the stories and experiences and you make sense of what people are saying and doing.
Why another survey? The Flourishing Culture Assessment© was designed to surmount the limitations listed above. It contains 30 items that examine the many dimensions of an organization’s culture. It’s dynamic and customized to meet the needs of the client. It’s administered in live sessions using an electronic polling device so any questions about the survey can be surfaced and responded to immediately. And, it is one part of a six-step process that helps a group, both managers and employees, understand its current state and determine what needs to be done to transition to a flourishing, high-performing culture.
(For more information on the six steps, see blog entitled The Six S Flourishing Culture Assessment© dated November 26, 2016).
Schein, E. (2009). The Corporate Culture Survival Guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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