Here’s my argument: we need to move from methods of measuring organisation culture that are static, towards methods that allow for dynamic assessment. This argument comes out of experiences where static approaches have failed to provide relevant information during the life-cycle of a change management project.

When embarking on an organisatinal intervention project, one can normally anticipate the inclusion of a “discovery” phase as the first of the project. This is where an “as-is” assessment/audit of ­the context in which the intervention needs to take place is captured. While this important step is often dealt with as a mere step in the process, and not as a key indicator of the context and how that context may inhibit or support the broader project, I am finding a more perturbing assumption about the discovery phase made by project sponsors, managers and many facilitators.

The (unsaid) assumption is that the audit is a cross-sectional perspective of the cultural context at a specific point in time, with outputs and information that are static and applicable throughout the life of the project.

At the very least, a culture audit is a perspective on an organisation within the boundaries of the co­ntext in which it was captured. With the above assumption, we (and I do refer to all of us here) are tempted to make inferences about the organisation’s culture in perpetuity of the life of the project.

This assumption leaves little room for the way in which the culture may shift at different times in the project.

Now, it is impractical to run culture audits continuously throughout a project to deal with this problem, but at the very least we need to move from a Lewinian model of culture audit where we take a snap-shot of a culture and draw inferences from that moving forward. Instead we need to begin to find methods that allow us to capture dynamically the living culture of an organisation.

It is in this realm that capturing narratives within an organisation, and being able to manage them effectively, becomes key to have as close to a real-time picture of organisational culture as possible. This very point is a value proposition we use within The Narrative Lab to sell Narrative-based Exit Interviews.

If one is able to have a fairly continuous stream of narrative material captured, indexed, stored and searchable we are one step closer to being able to track the impact of a project in real-time, not just at the end of the project. The Sensemaker suite of software is a vital tool in this regard that allows the capture, indexing, storage and searching of massive amounts of narrative material. Combined with Narrative-based Exit Interviews, Sensemaker will provide a very relevant way of reading the pulse of your
organisations culture.