Culture is an outcome not an output

And, while I’m at it, you can’t communicate culture. Not even through “hearts and minds” campaigns *cringe*.

And the reason that you can’t communicate your way to a new culture is that it’s not something that can be done to an organisation. You have to do it with an organisation.

That’s right from defining where you are now, the challenge you’re facing, and where you want to get to.

As for the ‘how you’re going to get there’ that takes a cast of thousands. They just need to support the idea.

What can communications do?

You can share the story of where you think you are, what you think the challenge is, where you think you need to get to, how you think you might get there, and what you hope the benefits might be when you get there. And you can use this to help test the ideas and shape discussion.

You can share stories of where you think you are already doing these things.

You can be clear about what’s up for discussion and what’s not.

You can amplify people’s stories of where they are trying new things and what they are learning.

But you can’t paint a picture of a to be state (however compelling or visual or blanket coverage) and then expect it to be owned and delivered.

Time and space for discussion

The magic ingredient is offering people time, space, and a framework, to find a common understanding, a shared purpose, disagree well, discuss at length, input, build, and sense-make.

Time to debate, tyre-kick, think about things from different angles, and work through what it really means to them as individuals and teams.

Structures and systems, policies and processes

Then, once people have wrapped their head round things, and begun to make it relevant to themselves, you can work with them to help them think through what changes they want to make in the light of it.

Autonomy and ownership

The last piece of the jigsaw is how we support each other and remove blockers. Do people feel as though they are enabled and encouraged?

  • How do your leaders and people managers enable people?
  • How do you share information and ideas?
  • How do you get decisions made?
  • What are your people saying they need in order to get on with things?


  1. Paint your picture – why change, why now, broadly how, why will it be better
  2. Make time and space and structures to help folks test the thinking and make sense of it
  3. Help people think through what they can/want to do to help
  4. Get out of people’s way – make governance, leadership and management supportive
  5. Amplify stories of where it’s working and/or where people are trying things out

What have I forgotten/glibly skipped over?

This is a quick fly-through of the mental map I’ve built from the five or so organisations that I’ve spent time with over the last ten years.

What would you challenge on this? What would you add to it?


Author: caseyleaver

Internal communicator obsessed with eating, preparing and sharing food, and running (off all the food).

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