Does culture influence performance? Or not? And can it be changed?

I really enjoy the reviews of literature that the Center for Evidence Based Management puts out. This one is on culture and performance. Is there a link?


1) Study quality on this question is quite poor.
2) No one seems to know what culture is or how to measure it in an organization
3) There is no evidence (or rather no studies done) that show a link between culture and behavioral outcomes.
4) No one knows what the tools actually measure. They may purport to measure culture – but they are actually measuring effectiveness. But they do correlate with outcomes and so can be helpful.
5) Organizational culture is a weak predictor for performance when compared to other factors (level C)
a. Demographics, and personality traits showed stronger links, and general mental ability stood out as a remarkably good predictor (ρ= .54) of performance
6) There is no evidence that specific outcomes are sensitive to organizational culture
7) There have been no studies that assessed whether interventions to change culture even work.

Conclusion: organizations and practitioners should be careful spending time and money on company-wide culture change programs as they are not likely to increase performance

The last bit to me is interesting and also not surprising. I teach how to use behavioral modification to change behavior -  and most people don’t know the science of how behaviors are changed so it’s likely that most programs are not actually teaching behavioral change at all. And – honestly – a training in and of itself – won’t change behavior. It can give people the tools they need to change their own behavior though.

What you should know is that the science on behavioral modification is clear – behaviors can be changed. So maybe we shouldn’t be looking at culture – as much as being really really really specific about what behaviors we want to reinforce, and which we want to eliminate entirely.

This is especially true as it relates to bullying/harassment. We do know bullying and harassment have a negative impact on productivity. So - it makes sense to try and eliminate it. Often - when people talk about culture - THIS (bullying/harassment) is what they are trying to change.

Let me help with these online courses.  -

Sometimes you win by not fighting - parenting edition

Rain Dove - a trans activist on Instagram - recently had a conversation with a distraught parent about their teens - body issues. Rain Dove - handled this so well - the parent - who starts out - mad and accusatory - ends up thanking Rain for the help they gave.

First the link - then the discussion on why this is a beautiful example of how compassion can help you fix problems that would otherwise be arguments.

View this post on Instagram

Parents I promise that a professional binder is a safer option for your teen than alternatives they might be using. Getting them one as a gift can be life saving. A great brand and resource is @gc2b they even recently gave me a whole box to donate when in SA. Amazing conscientious and involved company. Binding ones chest can be a dangerous thing- especially when using alternative options like I used to do. Ace bandage and ducttape lead to skin tearing, fractured ribs and I even passed out once after taking off the binding from the oxygen rushing into my system again. I have models I’ve worked with who will testify times in which they saw my body distorted after inappropriate binding practices. People bind for many reasons. It’s not always identity or dysphoria related. Especially people with larger breasts have expressed binding has been lifesaving in functional terms. Binding CAN be lifesaving and ease much anxiety. I must note that it alone won’t make someone feel complete in their existence. We must work to dismantle toxic oppressions that lead to social oppressions and anxieties. We must create a space of love for all people to live in no matter their bodies. We must create a safe space for dialogue. #LoveWins #noteasybutworthit #nonbinary #memes #educatedonthate #binding #lgbtq #genderfluid #trans #lovewins #grsm NOTE: Sammys parent gave me permission to post this convo! Always important to make sure You have permission! The photo is not their real face.
A post shared by Rain Dove (@raindovemodel) on

Basically - a child wants to bind their chest, the parent is scared about what this all means and blames the trans activist. The trans activist tells the parent how much it's clear that they care for their child and then gently leads them to understand that if they reject their child now, the child may self harm and as a loving parent - they should make sure their child has the support they need so they don't self harm.

The entire transcript of the conversation is beautiful because it recognizes a truth. Anger is often fear in disguise.

How much better would the world be if instead of responding to anger with anger - we responded with love and compassion instead.

Middle managers - are important

Recently - the center for evidence based management published a research review on the importance of middle managers in the productivity of a team.


1) The roles and practices of line- and middle managers have a substantial impact on a wide range of organizational outcomes (Level A, ++)
2) Middle managers have a demonstrated impact on employee support for learning and change. Basically – they have the ability to help you succeed – or they can kill your initiative – whatever it is.
3) Middle managers should be involved in strategy development - Several studies suggest that middle managers’ involvement in strategy development has a positive impact on strategy implementation and, consequently, organizational capabilities

Middle Manager's biggest areas of impact:

1) Social Cohesion - A high level of social cohesion among team members creates a psychologically safe environment in which team members feel free to explore new ways of doing things (Hülsheger, Anderson, & Salgado, 2009).
2) Support and Reciprocity: The construct of perceived supervisory support stems from the norm of reciprocity, that is, when people treat others as they would like to be treated, repaying kindness with kindness and retaliating against those who inflict harm (Brunell et al., 2013; Gouldner, 1960). Put differently, when a manager helps his or her employees in times of need or recognizes them for extra effort, these employees tend to act in a way of value to the manager (such as meeting goals and objectives) and the organization as a whole (Edmondson, 2013; Eisenberger, 1986)
3) Team Empowerment - Psychological empowerment is also positively related to work performance. It is assumed that psychological empowerment enhances performance by increasing 1) the amount of information and control workers have over their work; 2) the level of work-related knowledge, skills, and abilities of employees; and 3) the motivation employees have to achieve organizational goals (Seibert, 2011).
4) Psychological Safety - If group members feel psychologically safe, they will, 1) be more willing to ask for help, admit an error, seek feedback, etc. and those actions, 2) foster learning in the group which, 3) improves their performance.
5) Group Goal setting - A large number of high-quality studies consistently demonstrate that specific, difficult goals yield higher performance than nonspecific (“do-your best”) goals, and specific difficult goals yield higher performance than specific easy goals. Several studies suggest that setting goals at the group level may yield higher performance than individual goals (Kleingeld, 2011).

Conclusion – Middle managers either create a sense of psychological safety or they don’t.  Psychological safety is positively correlated to improved performance and so – should be a focus of efforts and training for middle managers. Also – include them in strategy and decision making sessions.

Bad Decisions - Public Policy Edition

Who knew that privatizing health care in prisons would a) reduce services and b) cost more. Lots of people actually. But no one listened to them.

It would be really nice if we viewed critiques of our public policy agendas - as constructive. Because this whole - the other side is crazy so I don't have to listen to them mentality - results in - expensive harm.

Here is an article about - what we've learned about privatizing health care in prisons. - The headline is: Audit: Privatizing Florida’s prison medical services was costly mistake

File this under - the importance of reality in decision making. Don't have ideological blinders on to the point you don't listen to people telling you - something is wrong with your plans. Good strategists - realistically weigh the pros AND the cons before making decisions.

There was a similar problem with the ectopic pregnancy law  - The lawmaker who proposed the law – didn’t do the research to know whether what he was proposing was – doable or not (it’s not).

But he didn't listen to the critiques because - he thought the people telling him it wouldn't work - the doctors - were evil/crazy - take your pick.

We need realistic laws – based in science, reason and – compassion. This last bit is important. Compassion is what helps us listen!  And if we listen - maybe we won't make such costly mistakes that - you know - kill people!

Oh - and in case you were wondering - YES - I do have an online course that will help you do better at this:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...