Book Review-Developing a Positive Culture where People and Performance Thrive

Developing a Positive Culture where People and Performance Thrive

By: Marcella Bremer

Motivational Press, 2018


Many times, managers or organizational consultants, Change or Development, forget the “O” part of their role. Marcella’s book, Developing a Positive Culture where People and Performance Thrive, puts us squarely back on target. So, what is the culture and how is it serving the overall objectives of the organization?  Marcella want us to seek out, understand and embed the value culture has to an organization as a key critical success factor, to the efforts of employees, consultants, and all stakeholders.

Also she helps us seek, in her book, not just any culture. We should strive for a positive one.

Providing us methods, tools, approaches, Marcella encourages us to apply both the Competing Values Framework to assess change and the wonderful positive work of Seligmann and Cameron to asses and build. She also provides a free workbook to support the planning and execution of her recommendations.

She reminds us that we have to be the change and provides questions for our personal and organizational consideration. She also applies Ken Wilber’s work on Integral Thinking and Beck & Cowan’s work on Spiral Dynamics, for example,  providing useful lenses and tools for assessment and intervention. I look forward to book 2.


Seymour Hersh

Marcella’s site:


Trust is one very key enabler to success

Executing Organizational Change is neither simplistic nor easy. It requires we, as practitioners, not assume success. Whether the change is at the individual, group, department or enterprise level, no matter what the change is, there is always an underpinning of empathy and observation we must maintain as we address the health of the organization.

One of my clients asked that I build a Change Management strategy and plan, for a new product rollout that had been in the works for a while. Just build the plan. It should be straight forward.

As I attended various team meetings, as part of my engagement assessment, I found a whole new story. Teams and individuals talked freely and secretly to me about miscommunication between themselves and the senior executive team, and mis-direction between middle management and the teams on the ground. Digging deeper the level of trust between employees and management (their words) was very low due to the many mis-steps made by the executive team through, for example, a lack of effective, consistent and professional delegation and communication.

A lack of trust is bred as employees begin to see a lack of fairness and justice in the workplace based on their expectations and their realities. This lack of trust raises a number of concerns, for example:

.increases conflict among employees

.decreases engagement, loyalty, productivity and quality of work

In my little story I stopped my planning and worked with the organization to execute programs to improve trust, before, they started effecting change.

Some of many actions included:

.Improved communication at all levels – encouraging transparency and two way dialogue

.Ensured open policy and procedures were available to manage disputes thru facilitation, coaching and mediation

.Identified and modified the organizational process touchpoints ( from initial talent scouting, hiring and beyond) to ensure consistent messaging on engagement, leadership, communication and dialogue among all employees

With those actions in the works, my impossible mission became possible, though, admittedly, still not easy. Trust is critical.

Seymour Hersh

Start planning OCM early!

Start OCM Planning early, or else!

I am a fan of two curves:

The Project management pear curve ( or whale or elephant) and the FRAM filter “curve”The pear curve reflects an understanding that the intention, scope and objectives of any project need to be understood early to minimize cost, effort and frustration over the longer term.

The FRAM filter “curve” reflects on taking care of your organization ( engine) early with the proper techniques and tools or pay more money later to repair the damaged engine. Fram

Organizational Change Management(OCM) covers strategic tactical and operational decisions and actions over the span of a program and beyond.

One can argue that OCM’s critical stages lies at the beginning and levels of risk increase if the start is delayed from:

Concept stage Þ Business case Þ Program planning Þ Program implementation

OCM is less about providing courses and issuing nice memos or filling in stakeholder forms.

It is about engaging your entire organization (people, process, governance, performance) to enable program success and sustainability.

It is about maximizing equality, justice, fairness, and involvement

It is about meeting business strategy objectives over the long term

It is about applying key learnings from past change projects.

It is about leadership and stewardship.

With all of this sensitivity, why do decision-makers delay starting OCM?

Some reasons include:

· Lack of understanding of OCM and risk

· They think they know the cultures and climates of their organization, its simple, so everything is foreseeable & their people will follow like sheep

· They forget their change history

· They are afraid of their people and/or their ability to lead OR are afraid of what they perceive as “resistance to change”

· They minimize the change impact on their people

· They believe they are time or budget constrained

All of these traps are cause for greater program risk and delay. All of these traps can be avoided or mitigated.

The responsible and accountable team is the triumvirate of Owner/sponsor, Program manager and CEO and possibly a fourth, the HR executive.

Ask the tough questions, have a fierce dialogue if need be, and be self-aware early on, lest you want to be part of the 60% failure rate in change projects. And that number measures a multi-million dollar loss of organizational productivity, effectiveness and a negative impact on long term organizational health and sustainability.

Some Starter questions:

What are the clear and detailed change objectives, expectations and impacts, internally and externally

Do we have fully available resources ( e.g. People, money, time)

What other changes are we doing in the organization?

Is the timing right?

How do we engage the organization?

What assumptions are we making that may raise our risk profile?

All I ask is that you start early and have a dynamic dialogue.

Or you can pay for it later!

Do populists fit in an organization?

Populism may be defined as the identification and vocalization of popular needs. Do populists fit in organizations? Yes. Of course.

Be clear that populism is not a bad thing, if you “pay attention” to the voices. As a leader, before you can create any plan of action, paying attention requires listening and listening requires using the skill of empathy.

I believe and encourage the point, that we are all leaders. Each and every one of you.
We take responsibility and accountability, at minimum, for ourselves. More broadly, we serve our team members, teams, our organizations, communities and globally. So please wear and bear a leadership weight on your shoulders that best serves.

Empathy requires more from us, individually, than just bearing weight. Empathy asks that we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, hear, feel and relate to the emotion expressed. We can then connect meaningfully to that person in our words, tone and body language. Empathy requires that we change ourselves first in order that we can support or facilitate (whatever is needed) change in others.

In organizations, we may have many populists. The CEO who can read the many threads and weave them together to align people and goals, will see success. Is he or she a successful populist? In a manner of speaking yes.

The senior manager or anyone who senses an unserved need and raises it to enable change is also a populist or maybe he can also be viewed as a “trouble maker” rocking the boat. When is the employee good or the employee bad? In Shakespearean terms, That’s the rub!

Good or bad (absolutist) designations result from judgemental organizations. Organizations having low empathy sewn into their culture tend to forget that there is a learning side, with thanks to Peter Senge, and waste much organizational energy judging. Learning organizations can respond more positively and constructively to populists and enable their thinking to be included and have an effect on the decision-making governance processes. All good for long term organizational sustainability.

Judgemental organizations tend to quash or ignore populists, at their peril, allowing the untended thread to connect itself to other loose threads building into larger future issues. So much for engagement and adoption!

So next time you meet a populist, do your best to breathe, “listen’ to the message without judgement and ask collaboratively how the message can serve the overall organizational good. Worth the dialogue.

Listen to your people – One thing we can learn from the US election

Through this election what can we learn, from an organizational perspective? One clear point is to know your employees. Trump appears to have taken advantage of a simmering thread sewn throughout the fabric that is the United States. Few identified that thread or its need to be addressed.

Organizationally it begs the question: How well do you know your organization? What do your employees think and feel? Is there alignment, dissonance or what? Is there a thread you have not addressed that can impact meeting objectives?

The simple ask is to talk to them! The harder task and more important, listen to them, hear them and engage them. Too often senior executives think they have their thumb on the pulse only to find out the negative after an attempted new product / service launch or other change fails. And that lack of success is very costly to organizational energy &performance, competitiveness and stakeholder value.

Surprised election pollsters complained that people often lied about their voting preferences when surveyed so pollsters allotted some numeric quantity to take this “problem” into consideration. For organizations it is about sustaining a dialogue and an underlying level of trust in the ability of senior management and the organization as whole to execute with alignment.

I have served organizations that from start-up to one’s with a history of over 100 years. The reality is our level of active, honest, transparent and active dialogue is lacking.

On line surveys and assessments are nice as one of the sources of data to glean insight. Streamed videos for the large and vastly disbursed as a start to talking is just a start, not an end. And assuming employee’s managers communicate consistently what they heard from their managers (and so on), this communication is also a start as well.

As opposed to 330 million people, organizations have a smaller and more manageable task.
Get out there, meet and engage face to face. Do it way more than once, do it deeply, meaningfully, with clear measurable objectives and very clear communications messages and engagement plans. Else you too may lose to a not so silent thread.

Before you start, stop! – change readiness

Before you start, stop!
Those first few steps of change

If culture eats strategy then speed and hubris in organizational change, kills culture.

Ignoring culture, its characteristics and responses, will doom the project to repeat past transgressions. This is a fundamental history lesson. But this is only the first lesson of readiness.

The term organizational readiness refers to that very early part of the change process where organizations self-assess their ability to effect change successfully well before project start. The organization can continue applying this assessment over time as one way to measure project direction.

The second lesson is first building your business case for change. This business case, respecting culture, sets the foundation for moving forward, measures readiness and sets the foundation for success metrics.

Ignoring these two basics, and just jumping in and executing, sets the stage for project failure and cultural/organizational resistance.

This resistance, to culture and business case, is fertile ground and it will eat and kill what treads upon it. The final result being an environment without the organizational energy to change, serving as a red flag for future growth.

The organizational drivers for this hubris-like attitude can stem from the culture itself, and/or from the leadership personality of the sponsors as they respond to the stress/inexperience from within themselves, shareholders, regulating stakeholders and/or competitive market pressures. Leadership has a tempo to it, all its own, that feeds or ignores the basics.

The longer you wait to implement the basics the greater the successful project cost and the sharper the cultural pain, with less guarantee of any percentage of success.

Do we wait and do nothing? Do we analyze ourselves into paralysis? Of course not!

As leaders your role is to pragmatically act with intention, and voice your empowered position at the outset. Demonstrate the value of the basics, influence and then execute the first steps as best you can. If need be, constantly measure with awareness if you cannot do it all up front. This will at least mitigate some of the organizational, cultural and project risks.

Inequality – A Broad Global Step Blog Action Day October 16, 2014

Inequality is a bully. It is a yoke on the shoulders of humanity, that is 20,000 years old and a milli-second young. It hurts.

It is a conflict that kills the young, and decimates cities. It enables global rifts and skewed self-perceptions manipulating benefits of “the one” over “the other”.

Inequality, through a minority of lenses, is also a motivator, encouraging the reach and span of individuals. These are individuals who can think critically, and independently, globally, on their own two feet. These are individuals that take the open risk of dialogue and debate with an ear to learning. Extending beyond the individual though, we are subject to the madness of crowds, where there is no “we” in inequality, only “i”, the “other”.

Transforming “i” to” “we” using external influence is difficult. The “i” must share itself with the “other”, breaking into two elements, so that each element can together be flexed, angled and curved to form a “we”. Does the “i” have the strength and will power, stamina and flexibility, to achieve this sharing? Is the “i” too old and rusty to show the empathy required? Is the “i” independent enough?

Political, social, economic and geographic arguments be damned. We, individually and together, must tap into a source of optimism, and willful intent to create movement to overcome the inequality of thinking/doing that hurts. It does require risk and it is not of sesame street immediacy.

Every continent is in turmoil.

Creating and leading a spirit of openness and intention that makes economic sense is a start.
Can we cost justify this approach and prove country by country, a quantitative return on investment so they buy in? The first answer is yes. The second is sadly, but. Will they listen, accept, understand and act?

Putting the world on a psychologist’s couch, what would you see? Can you the reader, sit back, with unbiased intention and listen to the world’s issues, and hear its cries? Do we have global methods and structures to understand and empathize, assess, counsel, cause action, lessen fear and measure results? Can we use power to leverage the realization and execution of these methods?

We are so locked in, we cannot see outside our old, comfortable, history laden boxes. We are in pain and fear, placating ourselves by washing the old walls.

As we absorb the external economic revolutions, we must finally invest in and pay attention to the education of our inner selves, starting with ourselves and definitely our children. Fostering global education, spanning knowledge and skills, coupled with self-awareness, new metrics and our place on the globe, is an objective. Can we use new measures for each other, which, like gross domestic product, serve as accepted yardsticks of achievement?

We have the technology. Do we have the will? When will we have it? Now.

There are still children/youth, if not adults as well, who only know of their personal surroundings. They are locked into the “i”. Who in this world is being educated based on narrow focused tenets that enable the “i”? Too many, yielding, too much inequality. Instead of a security council, reverse the model, and have an achievement council.

The World Bank ( , October 2014) suggests two goals :
• Essentially end extreme poverty, by reducing the share of people living on less than $1.25 a day to less than 3 percent of the global population by 2030
• Promote shared prosperity by improving the living standards of the bottom 40 percent of the population in every country

Unless we raise the level of required education (approach, content, global context, delivery, measurement) of our children/youth, globally we will be hard pressed to reach these goals.

The real impact comes when we seed the sense of curiosity, openness, action and acceptance, in our children, all our children, everywhere. No fear, No hurt, Just collective reach to exceed beyond our walled bounds, together. There is no right or wrong here. There is a collective measurable agreement based on global principles of, such as, acceptance or inclusion or respect.

Let us seed the contents and messages globally and enable a new world order. Not a wave but a seed. Yes, seed! This is a farming task not one of hunting.

Far from the external industrial revolutions of the engine, or light and power, or technology and the web, we must focus our efforts to develop inward to better manage and lead outward.

Seymour Hersh

Blog Acton Day


come together
are more than one
create solidarity
combine brains’
encourage ideas
engender confidence
create power
cross pollinate ourselves
focus on sustainability
giving us breadth
providing depth
stretching length
encouraging dialogues
acting together
overcoming racism
being as one
because we are WE

#powerofwe #bad12 #Blogactionday

SocialHRCamp Toronto Sessions (August 23, 2012)- looks great!

get involved in this exciting session!

SocialHRCamp Toronto Sessions (August 23, 2012)
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Organizational Competitiveness and Change – 0.1 or 4.0 ?

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