We were working with the leadership team of a company a while back to help them gain company-wide performance improvement by strategically boosting their workplace culture. During the day we spent with them, they became very excited about our unwritten ground rules or UGRs concept as a vehicle to help people understand and improve their culture.

When we met with the group a month or so after this full day session, they were keen to show us the fruits of their labor since our last meeting. We were guided through a sophisticated critical path method (CPM) software program that laid out work plans to improve various aspects of the culture. It looked detailed, sophisticated and impressive.

Framed in as respectful a tone as we could muster, we pointed out that this group of leaders, many of whom were engineers, had actually missed the central point of culture change. This alluded to the first of our three conditions necessary for a stand-out culture, which is:

Culture change is less about work activities, strategies and initiatives, and more about the behaviors that people display in their day-to-day work in the many and various interactions that play.

As soon as culture change becomes a series of work tasks to be completed, these will compete against already busy workloads. And guess which will get priority-- particularly if there are work targets or KPIs linked to regular work activities?

In a sense, making a project out of culture change is easy to do. It's able to be assigned to people, put on a project timeline and checked on at regular intervals.

Questioning our own behaviors and becoming self-aware of the consequences of our actions, is much more challenging and potentially threatening to people. Yet this is the core; the essence of culture change. Unless leaders truly believe that their own behaviors have substantial impact on the culture and they have a desire to question those behaviors in a constant search for improvement, culture change will be superficial at best.

Steve Simpson is an international speaker, author and consultant who works with companies across the globe to help them understand and strategically improve their corporate culture. www.steve-simpson.com.

The editors of the Midsize Enterprise Summit selected this article from a LinkedIn posting by Simpson. It received more than 50 comments from a wide range of business leaders. You can view the posting and comments on Conditions necessary for a stand-out culture