Culture is the scoreboard, not the game. If you try to specify the score you want, you’re far more likely to do things that are counter-productive than you are to work on the things that will change how the game is going.
As soon as you publish values and behaviours, you get three things:
1- indignation from those who aren’t experiencing that, who judge you more harshly
2- fear from those who know they aren’t living it, and determination to avoid being found out
3- a double bind – ‘we say we’re an honest culture. But I’m not able to say what I think. But I can’t say I can’t say what I think – because we say we’re an open culture’
Instead, work humbly to change the score by changing how people experience the organisation, and what that changes.
It can work to publish values when you have a small team who can both set and police them (it might not last long).
In a bigger group, it can work when there’s enough momentum and frustration, and energy from knowing someone at the top really will enforce the changes. That person is likely exempt from the values they espouse – because who’s going to challenge them?
What’s the thing you’ve seen at work that most defines a culture?