Cultural Transformation: Leadership, Challenges, and Measurement

3 min read
Cultural Transformation

The concept of “purpose” and cultural transformation are thrown around quite generously when organisations are going through change or expansion. And after our recent podcast with Chris Jones, CEO at BMJ, the topic of cultural transformation arose once again, and this was enough of an excuse to take a more in-depth look into the subject.

The main factor in cultural transformation is an organisation’s leadership. Leaders should be modelling the culture they wish employees to follow; they need to manifest the organisation’s purpose to compel employees to follow in their footsteps. Another point worth mentioning is employee engagement, as this is almost always the solution/factor people consider when considering change/transformation. However, this isn’t the case, there may be a correlation but it likely is not causation. Engagement is how employees “feel” and this is far too volatile to be used as a reliable data point as the result can vary on any given day. Engagement can be considered as an output of an organisation’s culture or a “symptom” of it.

Leading by Example:

Leaders play the primary role in setting the tone of an organisation’s culture, they determine the desired capabilities, beliefs and norms that shape the way work gets done throughout the organisation. Leaders articulate the vision for the target culture and need to inspire employees to embrace it and provide employees with a strong sense of direction and purpose. By leaders embodying their target culture, they can demonstrate credibility and ultimately foster trust among employees.

By a leader doing all the above they can ensure that all the organisation’s systems, processes, and policies are aligned with the desired culture. This could involve revising performance management systems and decision-making processes to reinforce desired behaviours. It is also very common that leaders will face resistance from individuals or groups within the organisations that are attached to the existing culture this needs to be addressed through open and transparent dialogue. Stakeholders also need to be involved in the transformation process to mitigate resistance and promote employee buy-in.

Challenges and Obstacles:

Along with resistance from groups/individuals, there are a plethora of challenges leaders can expect to face when undergoing cultural change/transformation. A lack of alignment at the leadership level and throughout the organisation is a common obstacle we see in organisations. Change requires alignment and commitment at all levels of an organisation and conflicting communications and priorities amongst leadership can exacerbate this issue. The first step the senior leadership team (SLT) need to take is agreeing on their target culture they need to support each other and hold themselves accountable to drive deep change.

Mistrust and scepticism are other common obstacles faced as employees may not forget failures in the past and they may begin to consider new initiatives and schemes as insincere. To overcome this, leaders need to be transparent and communicate a compelling reason for the need to change. Building trust through consistent actions, listening to feedback, and demonstrating practical and visible progress can alleviate these obstacles and ultimately decrease the friction of the cultural transformation.

Measuring Culture, Change, and Progress:

Measuring culture change at first seems like an intangible concept however we here at Culture15 provide the ultimate tool that allows you to measure your culture and track your progress towards your target culture. By aligning your culture with your strategy, you can achieve greater business performance. By measuring your culture at the behavioural level rather than based purely on sentiment you can find out how work truly gets done in your organisation.


In conclusion, the journey of cultural transformation within organisations hinges greatly on leadership and employee engagement. Leaders must embody the desired culture, inspiring employees and aligning systems accordingly. Challenges such as resistance and mistrust are inevitable, requiring transparent communication and visible progress to overcome. Additionally, measuring culture change is vital, and tools like Culture15 offer insights into behavioural dynamics, crucial for aligning culture with strategic objectives and enhancing business performance. As we navigate through change, embracing a purpose-driven culture remains paramount for fostering organisational success and resilience.

Culture15 is your complete toolkit for tracking culture change. CEOs and Exec Teams at world-leading organisations use Culture15 analytics to ensure success by aligning their culture with what they need to execute their strategy. If you’d like to find out how to define the culture and values you need, diagnose the culture you have and close the gap, talk to our team. 

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