The case for culture statements

For decades, most well-established organizations have gone through the process of developing mission and vision statements to clarify their purpose, guide their actions, and serve as a compass pointing to an ultimate “north star.”

Yet some recent organization development thinking has underscored the potential inadequacies of even the most well-crafted mission and vision statements. Mission and vision statements, this thinking goes, can too easily become overly abstract assertions of idealized purposes and aspirations divorced from the reality of day-to-day operations.

If, in fact, mission and vision statements do run the risk of overly high-level abstraction, is there a meaningful alternative?

At Kenning, we believe the answer to that question is the creation of a culture statement, an important element of the overall “3-D Culture” (Diagnose, Design, and Develop) process we provide to our clients who are seeking to build more intentional organization cultures.

To create culture statements that help our clients define their intentional cultures, we pursue a highly structured yet dynamic and fun process that engages stakeholders at all levels.

The outcome of the process?

A culture statement owned and embraced at all levels of the organization that describes how people want to work and operate together – as well as how to show up individually and collectively for and with any stakeholder who interacts with the organization, whether they be customers, clients, investors, partners, or vendors.

Because organizations are, by definition, social, they all develop specific cultures, intentionally or not, regardless of whether they are established Fortune 500 companies, promising start-ups, or anything in between.   In short, “Culture Happens” whether we want it to or not. But when culture just happens, it can often lead to unintended – and unwanted – outcomes.

There is in fact a vast difference between organization cultures that are intentionally developed through specific means and ends – and which are therefore more likely to be healthy cultures – and cultures that develop, in effect, accidentally.

It should come as no surprise that healthy cultures lead to organizations that:

  • Are successful and sustainable over the long term
  • Build great leaders at every level
  • Attract and retain the very best talent
  • Are open to new ideas and innovations
  • Are resilient against competitive and business cycle challenges.

We believe that creating meaningful organization culture statements can be an important tool for achieving these important outcomes.

To learn more about Kenning’s “3-D Culture Development” process, including our approach to creating successful culture statements, please contact Daryl Ogden or any of us at Kenning.