Defining Work Culture

I have been assigned to a new committee to define our corporate culture. How do I go about this task, and what are the essential ways to define a new culture?

I have been assigned to a new committee to define our corporate culture. How do I go about this task, and what are the essential ways to define a new culture?

It is important to note that a culture statement is different than a corporate mission statement. I make that point directly because many people who are deemed with the task you have in front of you confuse those issues. A mission statement is more of an end-oriented goal, whereas a culture is a statement of action and essence. For example, a mission might be to be the “largest and best maker of widgets.” A definition of culture might be “to work with the highest level of honesty and integrity.” Both of those examples are quite generic and weak, but they make the point of differentiation.

It is also interesting to note that while mission statements are often written, cultures are more often felt. In a perfect world, the need to formally define a cultural statement would be considered redundant to the point of silliness. That’s because actions, attitudes and even attire that don’t match a culture are apparent in the same way that Western Christian travelers stand out in Middle Eastern countries. But this is not a perfect world, and today’s employees need detailed road maps, so defining a culture is important.

 It is my experience that the best culture definitions include three parts. The first part defines the professional will of the members of the organization. For example, you might include that your culture includes a never-give-up attitude. That sort of language illustrates the expectation that effort is paramount, and it allows you to ask the team members if they exhibit that attitude in their actions.

The second part is a description of the heart of the members. For example, you might say that you have a “compassionate heart,” meaning that your team members don’t point fingers. Instead, they seek first to understand, then to be understood. It applies to working with other departments, vendors and hierarchical relationships, both up-down and bottom-up.

The final part of a culture includes the important concept of keeping business fun. I know: To some people, that sounds almost absurd. Clearly, for certain businesses, due to the nature of the work, it might be too overt and even disrespectful to include “fun” in a cultural statement. However, in most cases, it is wise to include. Even many of the most impressive Fortune 100 companies, whose responsibilities are grave, include fun in their cultures because even grave work needs a smile to accompany it every once in a while or it becomes unbearable.

Once your culture is defined and you begin to promote it, you will know if it is growing when peers “correct” each other if they step outside of the culture. It is a lot of work to promote a culture once it is defined. Stay close to the sacraments while you pursue your objective. The committee needs Christ present, and you may be the only invitation he gets to the meetings.  

Catholic business consultant Dave Durand is online at