How to Get Culture Change Right – Creating Checklists

March 4th, 2020 | 5 minute read

When helping our clients navigate culture change, one of the essential steps is codifying the elements of culture that drive the most success. Often, these are either not detailed anywhere, or are buried in a “too big to read” manual somewhere. One of the keys to creating culture change that sticks – simplifying complicated processes into useable, actionable items that your team can use easily every day. Useable beats detailed every time. 

In the most successful businesses, there is a proven way to do things. This drives a particular result, and people know how to execute it time and time again. In Instead of documenting complicated processes for every part of your business, you might want  to consider another tool – the checklist.

Atul Gawande wrote about the success of checklists across continents in his book “The Checklist Manifesto”. Everyone from surgeons, to pilots, to business people, create more predictable levels of success through checklists. As an example, Warren Buffet, one of the most successful and well known business investors, uses a checklist to inform all of his investment decisions.

Gawande uses the example of an operating room – using a simple checklist led to 35% reduction in complication and death.

Identify Your High Performers

So how does this work when it comes to culture change? A great way to get started with your culture change checklist is to look at your “high performers”. The biggest element of your culture, is the behaviours it drives in your business.  “How” someone does something – i.e. the difference in behaviour of your high performance, is what enables them to perform at the level they do.

The first element is simple – have your managers put together a checklist of the attributes of their high performers. Once these are complete you can look at the similarities and start to see where you might need to change your recruitment processes to attract and assess these key attributes.

Document the Critical Moments

The second step is to put together a focus group of high performers and look at the elements of your culture that are essential in driving the right results. This could be lessons learned on recent projects, to where reoccurring issues come from, to simplifying complex policies and procedures. Once they have identified the areas that need strengthening, create simple checklists for reinforcement. There are a few key points to remember when doing this:

  • Only document the critical moments – what are the defining moments in something either working or not working? Aim for no more than 5-9 items.
  • Where will the checklists be accessed? Even the best checklists are of no use if no-one knows where to find them, consider where to store them for easy access. This could be in a google doc, an online hard drive or a project management system.
  • Test them. Often a checklist is great until someone who wasn’t involved in writing it tries to use it and can’t. Have your team test the checklist with several different people and refine until it feels fit for purpose.

This is part of a series on tools for culture change, for more insight directly to your inbox, sign up for our blog updates. For more insight around the key elements of culture that drive the most success, you may also enjoy our download Is Culture Just Pink and Fluffy?





You may also like