Working Out and “Fixing” Culture


I’ve seen and heard it time and again.

“We’re going to fix our culture.” Or,

“For the next six months we’re going to focus on our people.” Or,

“I hope we can get our morale issue under control so we can get back to business.”


Don’t get me wrong — those are good things to do, but imagine if you took this approach to a health and wellness program. In fact, many of us have had this very experience (don’t judge me). It usually begins around January 1, doesn’t it? Or when we get ready to go to the beach for the first time over the summer. We get really motivated to get in better shape, eat right, and so on. We buy gym memberships and workout clothes that fit a little snugly (because after all, we’re going to lose weight, right?) and march off to the gym, determined that this time will be different. This time we won’t give up in March. We’ll at least give it until June.

We all know that to get lasting results in the health arena, we have to continually manage ourselves in this area. We have to keep eating right, and we have to keep getting to the gym to exercise. It’s an ongoing thing, or at least it should be.

The same is true in regards to group culture. In our organizations, we too often try to stick band-aids on culture issues rather than taking a long-term, strategic approach to them. Rather than understanding that culture is an ongoing initiative, we relegate it to some sort of temporary project.

lazy guySix months later we end up on the couch, our fingertips orange with Cheetos, and remnants of fried chicken from two days ago clinging to our sweats. We’re  bothered that we can’t fit into our workout clothing; but not bothered enough to actually do something about it on an ongoing basis.

There’s always next year.

3 thoughts on “Working Out and “Fixing” Culture

  • Excellent post, Matt. Having achieved the 25% body weight loss a few years ago, and keeping it off, I have lived the analogy.

    Corporate culture is not a short-term plan, and I don’t know if it ever really gets “fixed”. IMHO, either you have “it” or you don’t. That is, I haven’t seen anyone fix an underlying cancer. Have you?

    • Your second paragraph is really critical. You’re right — it’s not a short-term plan and in my view it’s never really “fixed” (implying finished). Every organization has a culture; it’s just that some choose to actively frame, shape, and influence the culture toward certain ends while others take a more laizzes-faire approach.

      Not sure what you mean by your last question. Mind expounding on it if you get around to it?

      Thanks, Scott.

  • Great article Jason, so true.

    Too many times I’ve listened to Directors react to the latest staff survey results or ‘people initiative’ with ideas of regular town hall meetings, news letters or the insanely generic ‘having more fun’. And just as you say, like gym membership, it all tends to peter out after two or three months.

    Grand gestures aren’t sustainable and are often not wanted. What’s more effective for leaders AND health? Move more. Walk around. Make a habit of getting up and talking to people. That’s the starting point for understanding and influencing the culture … and shedding a few pounds.

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