Ten Guidelines for Managers Who
Want to Create Culture Change

A common perception is that cultural change has to start at the very top of an organization. But studies and field experience have shown that culture change can begin with the sub-culture of a work-group where a manager who is one or two levels down from senior management decides to become an Island of Excellence® in a sea of mediocrity. As objective evidence of believable performance improvement becomes known to other managers, change often goes horizontal across the organization through other work-groups, then up through the line organization to top managers. The Breckenridge Institute® has developed ten guidelines that managers should follow when under-taking this kind of culture change.

  • Make sure that the changes you propose are in the best interest of the overall organization, not the self-interest of your work-group. Build sustainable capability and infrastructure that benefits the entire organization rather than optimizing your own position and sub-optimizing the organization’s overall performance.
  • Solve your own work-group’s problems first and become an example of the change you’re trying to achieve. Operate from a “no-blame” philosophy that doesn’t point the finger at others, but takes personal responsibility for your work-group’s performance within the organizational context it is embedded. As Jim Collins describes, when there are issues and problems to be solved, look in the mirror of personal responsibility. When there is praise and recognition to be apportioned, look out the window and ascribe credit to those who have made the change possible.
  • Create your own organizational “space” and obtain additional resources based on the value you add. Don’t move in on other managers’ areas or “cherry pick” the most visible high-leverage projects. Find a new area to develop or one that has been traditionally neglected by the organization and turn it into a high-performing enterprise. Strive to build new organizational capability that can be transformed into revenue or an enhanced ability to achieve the organization’s purpose and goals.
  • Align your work-group’s vision with other work-groups, departments, and functional units by focusing on the things you hold in common. While each work-group may have a different function in the overall organization, its activities should be aligned to achieve a common purpose and the goals of the overall organization. Alignment of purpose and goals and focusing on what an organization has in common are the core differences between being a “group” of people and being a “team.”
  • Communicate the trade-offs of actually accomplishing change to work-group members. For example, if your goal is to increase productivity, then this will require more time and energy from group members and increased resources may not always be immediately available until the work-group demonstrates its increased productivity to top managers. But positive change often brings increased visibility with senior managers that can result in professional advancement for those involved in the change.

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Next Time: The lead article in the July issue of the Pinnacle will describe, Four Dimensions of Leadership.

HBR Editor’s Blog

Every month, the senior editors of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) invite internationally recognized organizational theorists and practitioners to raise issues and answer questions about leadership and management issues on the HBR Editor’s Blog. This month, we provide Pinnacle readers with links to two important and interesting discussions (see below).

Rita McGrath, Will HP and EDS Clash Over Culture?, “Advice for heading off problems when a collaborative culture and a control culture come together.”

Robert Cialdini, How to Get the Best Results from Your Team, “Avoid two common decision-making traps that confront leaders.”

We encourage you to join the conversation on the HBR Editor’s Blog and voice your opinions, commentary, and insights on these and other important topics.


The Breckenridge Institute’s new survey management software is up and running for the Breckenridge Type Indicator™ (BTI™). Line managers, HR professionals, internal or external consultants, coaches, and type professionals can now have 24-7 access to this exciting new tool – the most reliable and valid Enneagram instrument available. Contact Elin Larson for details on how you can begin using this exciting instrument in your organization or with your clients (970-389-4666 or elin@breckenridgeinstitute.com).
The Breckenridge Institute® announces the new Breckenridge Relationship Indicator™ (BRI™) that provides Enneagram scores for two people overlaid on a single radar graph, with the differences between the two participants’ personality types and likely areas of conflict discussed. It comes in both a Corporate version that is used by managers and their direct reports, and a Corporate Couples version for couples who want to improve their time-life balance and their relationship. Contact Elin Larson for details on using this cutting-edge tool (970-389-4666 or elin@breckenridgeinstitute.com).
For a more complete listing of recently published on-line articles, white papers, and books from the Breckenridge Institute® go to http://www.breckenridgeinstitute.com/our-publications.htm.
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Breckenridge Institute®

If you would like information about the Breckenridge Institute’s research activities, portfolio of assessment tools, or consulting services, visit our website at www.breckenridgeinstitute.com.

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Underwater Photo: © Annie Crawley, www.anniecrawley.com


Culture Corner

“Every organizational system has its own natural ‘immune system’ whose task it is to resist novelty.”

William Bridges


Breckenridge Type Indicator™ (BTI™)

Breckenridge Type Indicator™ (BTI™) is an individual personality type indicator that is based on the Enneagram, also known as a Circumplex Model of personality. Studies have shown that people who possess emotional intelligence (EQ) are often twice as successful as those who possess only high levels of intellectual intelligence (IQ). A person’s level of self-awareness and self-control is an indicator of their openness to feedback, change, and their ability to succeed professionally, especially when under stress. The BTI™ is a powerful tool for identifying your hidden strengths, areas for improvement, and for developing a more effective balance between EQ and IQ. The BTI™ is the most reliable and valid Enneagram assessment instrument available and is designed to help identify key elements of managers’ and staff members’ personality and interaction styles. The BTI™ is typically used by proactive managers and staff members who want to take charge of their careers and become even higher-performers. People who get the most value from the BTI™ are those who use it to achieve higher levels of:

  • Professional competency in decision-making and problem solving
  • Personal competency in processing conflict and communicating more effectively
  • Social competency in teamwork and more effective group dynamics

Contact Elin Larson at elin@breckenridgeinstitute.com or
970-389-4666 for details about how you can begin using this exciting tool in your organization or with your clients.

What We’re Reading

Ian Hacking, Representing and Intervening

Organizational culture and theoretical entities like electrons have some important things in common. First, the actual entities themselves are in principle invisible to the naked eye so while their “reality” has often been debated and doubted, the affects they have on things that can be seen and measured are very, very real – only a Cartesian skeptic would doubt their existence. Second, perhaps the most convincing argument for the realism of electrons and organizational culture is that both can be used as powerful tools, instruments that can be purposely deployed to make a physical difference in the world. In the case of electrons, they can be sprayed from emitters onto phosphorous material on the back-side of television screens to create images of Super Bowl commercials, and carried through miles and miles of wires to power lights and other devices for entire cities. In the case of organizational culture, it can be used to teach people how to see the world – a powerful tool for transmitting the message about “how it’s done around here.” Strong cultural norms about what is (and is not) acceptable behavior in the workplace can powerfully shape how people “see” themselves, others, and the world around them. So while organizational culture may be invisible, it’s no toy and establishing a firm epistemological and philosophical foundation for cultural realism and how culture works in organizations is a key element to more precisely describing what culture is, how it works, and how it can be used to create positive change.