A Living Culture

Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® (EODC®) , Emergent Organizational Development® (EOD®) and Emergent Change® are under registered trademark, 2017. All writings are considered under copyright as per The Institute For Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change®, Patrick Trottier and Associates. Written permission is required.

© By Patrick Trottier (PT)

My thoughts…


I often wonder how many organizations truly put the effort into understanding how culture is fundamental to their business success, and how to manifest such to bring their desired culture into the fabric of the organization.

Later on in this write-up, we will begin to explore the following areas where people can create the conditions and influencing patterns to manifest a living, emergent culture to continually ‘form‘ though:

  1. The business model.
  2. The business strategy.
  3. The structure and design of an organization, as well as the organizational dynamics manifested by its technology, its business systems, processes and the ‘experiences’ internal and external people have within their interactions with such.

We have addressed in other write-ups how an organization forms and manifests its culture through its shared values, beliefs and assumptions, as well as through critical ‘artifacts’, as Dr. Edgar Schein would say.

SCHEIN ide1_0Traditionally, people have been, and always will, be a key focus of culture.

However, there is much more involved to manifesting an organizational culture.

Kurt Lewin’s Field Theory

We tend to take a Kurt Lewin’s Field Theory perspective that behavior and performance is influenced by both the person and the environment.

B = f(p,e), meaning that behavior (B)
is a function of the person (p), and his/her environment (e)

This perspective brings us to…

Culture Field Theory™ (Trottier, 1990s)

We take a similar view as Kurt Lewin’s Field Theory with EODC®’s ‘Culture Field Theory™’.

The Institute For Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® proposes and understands that a culture is influenced by people and their environments.

C = f(p,e), meaning that ‘culture’ (C)
is a function of people (p), and his/her environment (e)

For now, we will set the stage for an emergent view of a Living Culture™, and begin to appreciate ‘an organizational culture as a core business strategy’ influenced by:

  1. The business model and organizational design.
  2. The business strategy.
  3. The structure and design of the organization.
  4. Technology, business processes, decision-making paradigms, business systems, policies, supply chain and relationships both with people and the elements mentioned in numbers 1. through 4.

If the elements in numbers 1. to 4. do NOT reflect and manifest
in a consistent and congruent manner people’s ‘experiences’ (internal and external) that reflect the desired culture – there will always be a ‘Culture Gap’.

As well, there will also be a ‘gap’ between the culture of the ‘formal organization’ and the culture of the ‘informal organization’. (PT, some time in the 90s)

Traditional ‘Desired Culture’ vs. A Living Culture™

A colleague, Edward Hampton, Managing Member, Performance Perspectives LLC states it well;

“Position OD work on the emergent.  Traditional OD work has looked to the Past and/or to the Future.  Those were boxes.  The emergent is where Flow operates.  It is where the client lives – and dies.   OD consultants need to work there.”

That being said, it seems to me there is a big difference between what we traditionally called ‘a desired culture’, and what we currently call a ‘Living Culture™’.

The ‘desired culture’ does not exist.
The ‘culture’ of today is the only culture that exists.

The ‘desired culture’ is a pipe dream all full of hope, plans, meetings, workshops, programs, assessments, step-wise models, and other extra activities outside of regular, day-to-day  work. It is usually an ‘add on’ project taking up people’s time, energy and resources outside of the normal work load.

It is a time when Sr. Management does their ‘dog and pony show’ to get buy-in, or try to ‘sell it’ into the organization.

It is to be ‘project managed’, just like ‘change management’ with all its failures, frustrations and ‘survival mechanisms’ that people learn every few years as the ‘here we go again’ cry into the wilderness of hopelessness and frustrations are relived over and over again.


A Living Culture™

A Living Culture™ exists and will always exist only in the present.

“A Living Culture™ lives and continually emerges as
the business, people’s and environments’ needs, desires, and expectations emerge.

New types of behaviours, values, norms, artifacts,
assumptions, perspectives, conversations, explorations, etc.,
are created through new thinking, new experiences, new perspectives, open systems and novel technologies of which they themselves are continually formed
as they are interacted with.” (PT)

All are synergistic and manifest ‘influencing patterns’ that continuously form
a living culture in the now.

Thus, a culture emerges as people, organizational and technical systems are continually regenerated, and when people allow themselves to ‘reframe’ their thinking about themselves, their environments and the organization as a whole systemic entity.

This is when novel forms and constructs emerge regarding a living culture, as well as the evolution of:

  1. The business model and organizational design.
  2. The business strategy.
  3. The structure and design of the organization.
  4. Technology, business processes, decision-making paradigms, business systems, policies, supply chain and the systemic relationships among people and the elements mentioned in numbers 1. through 4.

The point is – it all works together as a whole, organic, systemic, living thing.
Not as ‘parts’ of the whole.

Note: Let us leave the word and the concept of ‘parts’ out of our
exploration into ’emergence’, shall we.

Such does not fit.

To continue; I have been asked:

How About Fundamental Values and Principles – Do They Change?

My Consideration And Thoughts To This Inquiry:

Within an EODC® ‘Emergent Culture‘ perspective there are certain ‘values and principles’ that stay the course of time. These are fundamentals. Such values and principles such as honesty, integrity, responsibility, a person creates ‘meaning’ and becomes who she / he is, diversity is needed for emergence, etc.

However how these aspects are manifested and expressed certainly evolve.

For a list of EODC®’s ‘Basic Principles Of The Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change (EODC)®’, please view:

The fundamental values that the organization creates as’ norms’ do exist now. In an ’emergent world’ how those fundamentals are manifested and displayed will emerge over time and novel forms of such will evolve to fit the needs of an organization’s internal and its relationship with its external environments…. and so on, and so on.

So, these fundamental principles and values will take on a different ‘meaning’ and ‘meaningfulness’ as novel ‘forms and patterns’ influence and emerge over time.

It is more like a sphere of influencing patterns that create real time change.

In addition, novel values and principles will influence and shape both the fundamentals as well as continually themselves to emerge even new influences and ‘forms’.

Again, the relationship is systemic to other elements in an organization where novel manifestations of values and principles influence changes in the whole systemic organization into new forms.

We see this in technology, business systems, organizational designs, relationships, hiring practices, policies, etc., etc.

Culture Gap

Whenever there is a consistent difference in ‘what people experience‘ day-to-day and what is written, or spoken of in regards to the organization’s values, attitudes and beliefs, this is called a ‘Culture Gap‘. If there is a significant difference when people interact with the deigns of an organization, its systems, its power dynamics, policies and business processes, such is also called a Culture Gap. I have worked with many, many ‘culture gaps’.

A culture can be full of direct and indirect prejudices, discrimination, gender inequalities, inequalities of all types, ‘the in-crowd’, ‘the power people’, etc., etc. These things are often ingrained and become the ‘unspoken norm’ over long periods of time.  Such are so embedded into the culture that most deny that they even exist.

A ‘culture’ exists exactly as it is designed to exist.

There is always a difference between ‘theory’ and ‘reality’.

Also, people live and work in ‘different worlds’. The people at the top of the pyramid experience ‘interaction’ much differently that people in ‘the worlds of front line’, or some other area of the organization. Most people, at the top, are not even aware of what it is like in many other parts of the organization such as in ‘subordinate positions / functions’. This also creates a ‘culture gap’, and many dysfunctional aspects in organizations. (More on ‘Culture Gap’ in another writing).

To Define Culture

For the sake of a common understanding, let’s define culture:

An organizational culture is simply the ‘influencing patterns’ that people consistently and congruently experience over time which emerge as the norms, beliefs, values and practices that guide people in their perspectives, attitudes, decisions and behaviors’ in present time. (P. Trottier, 1994)

An ‘influencing pattern’ is a contingency of interdependent patterns that begin to emerge and form into something which has an inherent capacity to influence persons and events.

What is A Living Culture™?

Simply, a Living Culture™ continually emerges as an ‘open system’
as new norms, perspectives, values, attitudes and beliefs are
continually influenced by
its internal and external environments.

Thus, a Living Culture™  ‘lives’
and is manifested through the experiences and actions of people.

A Living Culture™ is influenced by what people experience from the organizational design, business practices, IT/IS systems, relationships, communications,
business models, systems and processes.

A Living Culture™ is not ‘in some future time, that we hope for…’

A Living Culture™ is what happens and
what is experienced in the now – the present tense.

“The Future is Created Now.”


People Are ‘Experiential’ By Nature.

People learn (assimilation and accommodation) mainly through their experiences, behaviors, observations and reflections. Learning is an emergent process. (emergent learning…)

To offer a famous well known quote by Andrew Carnegie;

As I grow older, I pay less attention to what (people) say, I just watch what they do.”

People have heard all the talk, read the ‘values list’ in the pretty frames in the hallways that basically sound the same in any organization, or have attended the ‘event change programs’ about its vision, desired norms, values, attitudes and beliefs.

But the reality is until people experience such in a consistent and congruent manner, those ‘talking points’ will not become real,
nor internalized in people’s minds and hearts.

So, how does an organization create both the conditions and the ‘influencing patterns’ that help form people’s experiences which then emerges as what is called ‘the culture of an organization’?

How does an organization embed the desired perspectives, norms, attitudes, values and practices that manifest the desired culture into the fabric of an organization?

”When one experiences a difference,
that is what makes a difference”
(Patrick Trottier, in the ’80s)

Traditional Approaches To Culture

So, how are we doing with ‘traditional approaches’ to culture?

You know how it is traditionally done. – someone says ‘lets do a culture assessment, find out what it looks like now, create a strategy to identify the issues, create a ‘vision’ of the future,  and ‘fix it’… I say that is a waste of people’s time, and money.

For all the money and effort that go into corporate change initiatives,
they have a decidedly mixed success rate. Only about half of transformation
initiatives accomplish and sustain their goals, according to a survey on culture and change management by the Katzenbach Center.

According to a 2013 Katzenbach Center global survey of more than 2,200 executives, managers, and employees on culture and change management, the success rate of major change initiatives was found to be approximately 54 percent.

Key Findings  – The Importance of Culture in Enabling Change

Strategy& Global Change Survey
2013 Katzenbach Center global survey – Executive Summary:
Strategy and_Cultures-Role-in-Enabling-Organizational-Change pdf

What can we draw from these indicators?

For myself, maybe we need to ask ourselves some questions like:

Based on the above success rates of the current approach to ‘organizational culture change / transition / transformation’, or, whatever term of your choosing, maybe we have to look at this ‘organizational culture thing’ differently.

What if:

What if an organization is not encapsulated by the overly used term, ‘culture’?
(encapsulated; enclosed in a capsule, or other small container; reduced; restricted)

What if this nebulous construct named ‘culture’ is never placed under a microscope as something to be quantitatively assessed, analyzed, segmented and diagnosed?

What if the term ‘culture’ is seldom mentioned. Rather, an organization focuses on setting the stage and the conditions for the desired perspectives, values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors to emerge and form naturally.

Serendipitously, I discovered the following quote by Dr. Edgar Schein in the interview;
‘A Preview of Organizational Culture and Leadership from Edgar Schein’, (Dr. EdSchein and Tim Kuppler, January 7, 2017 ( goo.gl/Of0N2v )

Quote: “I’m almost tempted, when I get into a client situation or a coaching situation, to say: let’s have this entire conversation without using the word culture…

What if
the desired culture is simply ‘experienced’ in a consistent and congruent manner over time emerging and forming the desired norms, values, attitudes and practices that ‘fit’ with the situation at hand, and as the internal and external situations change?

We see this now with rapid and complex change in generational expectations of work, the market place, competition, technologies, financial and political policies, etc., etc.

What if certain norms, values, attitudes or practices continually emerge and are quite distinct from the original thoughts of the “desired culture”? Let’s say some become foundational elements and attributes, and some continually emerge as the organization and its environments emerge and evolves?

What would that be like to experience? Such is possible and practical dependent on how ™the organization is designed and the relationships people experience day-to-day.

A ‘Leadership Culture’ Manifesting A Living Culture.

Traditionally, we approach leadership as individuals, or a set of ‘boxed’ positions. We assess and analyze such ‘boxes’ to identify measured competencies and capabilities as individuals and/or groups. We seem to ‘see’ leadership’ and ‘leader’ not as their own cultural entity, but as a potpourri of skills and capabilities, and mostly focus on ‘leader training’ through hundreds of workshop hoping that ‘something’ will stick.

As has been noted by many esteemed thought leaders as well as throughout behavioral science research, lectures, books, consulting practices and scholarly institutions around the world, ‘leadership’ is considered to be the core ‘influencer’ of organizational culture.

Thus, many view ‘leadership’ as the ways-and-means to achieve the desire culture (the desired result).

What if we focused not on the desired ‘organizational culture’ as the prize, but shift our focus to ‘a leadership culture’ not simply as a ways and means but as a continually emerging resolution in itself.

Thus, would not an organizational culture naturally emerge
from a leadership culture?

In addition, we view leadership not ‘in a box’ on some hierarchical organizational chart.

We view ‘leadership’ not by positional competencies and functions, but what influences performance and from what people experience day-to-day.

Leadership is an emerging pattern of influence.

Continuous Emergent Learning

Let’s say people are constantly learning new ways of thinking, new mental and emotional frameworks, new ways to ‘see’ things influenced by:

  • Novel technologies…
  • New perspectives influenced by social norms, diversity, changing marketplace, world trends / patterns, new generations, technologies, etc…
  • Increasing complexity and rate of change in the world…

As in traditional ‘culture change’ programs, does moving from one ‘static culture’ to another ‘static culture’ suffice in this day and age… and tomorrow?

Many ‘culture change’ efforts wish to move from ‘A’ to ‘B’ culture…
while the world has moved to ‘F’.

‘A’ hierarchy    changes to ‘B’ while world has emerged to ‘F’ …

What if
we could create a ‘living culture’ to naturally emerge and evolve as our worlds emerges and evolves. (vs. culture change, and change management programs)

Recently, I revisited the first ‘article’ ever given to me from one of my undergrad professors in 1972 in regards to culture and organizations. The article is by Magoroh Maruyamam, Toward Human Futuristics, 1972.

Human Futuristics, as a study of future cultural alternatives, will not be another branch of ‘science’ in the traditional sense. Its function will differ from that of science in many respects. First, cultures are not ‘existing objects’ to be observed, analyzed and explained. Second, future cultures cannot be predicted by extrapolating the past ‘pattern’ of change, the past rate of change or even past rates of acceleration of change. There are too many unprecedented innovations taking place which render extrapolations invalid. Third, culture changes do not just happen. Therefore, culture changes are subject to people’s goals, imaginations, will and choice.

In the past, in most cases, cultures were either stationary or very slowly changing transmitted by the older generation to the younger generation through the process of socialization. Sudden cultural change, when occurred, was merely a matter of transition from one stationary pattern to another stationary pattern.

Today (1972), we are entering an era of transition of a different nature – from a chain of quasi-stationary patterns to a duration of perpetually transforming patterns which depend on people’s will and choice.”

So, are these thoughts even more relevant today than in 1972?  ……. I think so.

So what to do?

  • I contend that we stop seeing an ‘organizational culture’ as some abstract ‘thing’ external to ourselves, and ‘see’ such clearly as an extension of ourselves.
  • I think it is important to understand how a culture is manifested by both people and by how organizational systems and processes are designed.
  • I think it is important to see ‘organizational culture’ as a living, evolving, emerging extension of ourselves as we live, evolve and emerge.
  • I think consistency and being congruent between what we say, and what we do is everything.
  • I think it is important to remember what people ‘experience’ in a consistent manner over time is the real culture. The real culture may, or may not, work for them. People may choose to internalize it, or survive it.
  • Culture needs to ‘fit’ what we want to achieve, and how we want to work together to achieve it.

Culture As A Core Business Strategy

Let’s explore the four following areas where people can create the conditions and influencing patterns of experiences for a desired, living culture to emerge and to continually form:

  1. The business model.
  2. The business strategy.
  3. The structure and design of the organization.

1. The Business Model – A Few Considerations

Whether an organization is a start-up, or an organization that has been around for a long time, there is always a need to review the business model because of changes in such areas as the target market, technology, growth opportunities, customer expectations, social norms, etc. Because of such ‘changes’, what if people started thinking proactively about one’s company’s culture as an integral and fundamental ingredient of its business model.

“The purpose of a company is not to create a nice workplace culture but to function in the economy, to provide goods and services. Once you’ve got that concept that we’re in this-and-this business, then you want to design a workplace culture that optimizes fitting to that business.” Dr. Edgar Schein from ’20 Organizational Culture Change Insights from Edgar Schein’, by Tim Kuppler ( goo.gl/mJypFO )

Some Questions To Facilitate Awareness And Exploration Of The Importance Of Culture Becoming Inherent Within The Business Model:

  • Who is the customer? And what does the customer value?’
  • What business are we in? What is our business model?
  • What do we want our brand to stand for?
  • What are our core beliefs? What do we as people stand for?
  • What is our business purpose… what is our ‘higher purpose’?
  • How important is culture to our business model?
  • What is the role of culture in our business model?
  • What does culture look like within our business model?
  • What does leadership practices look like in our business model?
  • How do we give people experiences that are consistent and congruent with our desired culture through our structures, practices, systems, policies, relationships and business processes?
  • How does the role / design of IT/IS reflect our culture in our business model?
  • How do we work together and build positive relationships with each other in our organization, with our customers, with our market and with our supply side in our business model?

Comment: Even when you have the greatest business model, you will not achieve optimal performance if you cannot create a supportive / validating culture that becomes integrated and synergistic within that model as a whole.  This is why culture needs to be embedded as an integral part of the business model canvas.

2. The Business Strategy – A Few Considerations

Traditionally, a change in organizational culture has been written as and viewed as a unique initiative / program within an organization’s ‘to do’ list.  This sets up an organization’s culture as ‘something nice’, or as ‘a program’ outside of the core business strategies of the organization. Thus, cultural change many times becomes ‘something we have to do as a sideline project outside of the core business strategies’.

As an alternative, what if an organization embeds their values into their core business strategies to create internal and external people new experiences congruent with the stated values. What if policies and standards of performance become congruent with the stated values.


 A. Strategic Goal: Service / Product Value To Enhance ‘Reputational Capital’

To enhance product / service reputation through integrated information systems to support and increase the scope of product / service knowledge, customer feedback, innovation and decision making at front-line staff, systems and customer interfaces.

 B. Strategic Goal: IT / Front-Line Information Systems Integration

To design and implement open and integrated IT/IS systems where people  / teams can design user-friendly, customized dashboards to enhance a greater understanding of, as well as their contributions to, the business as a whole system.

C. Performance standards congruent with desired customer experiences. To actually answer a customer call-in within one minute (standard) congruent with the phone message: “Your call is important to us.” Now, would that not be a revolutionary customer experience.

3. Organizational Structure And Design – A Few Considerations

Most, if not in all organizations, have two basic types of structures.

A. The fist one is the formal structure that describes ranks of individuals, authority / reporting channels, functional departments and the segmentation of those functions.

B. The second one is the informal structure. Whereby the formal structure shows how participants are expected to relate to each other, the informal structure is how they actually do relate and interact with each other, how work really gets done across the organization, what types of relationships are developed as well as what actual value each person / group brings to the performance of other members and to their customers.

The informal structure is where and how the work gets done
and goals are met.

Most organizations are still formally structured according to The Industrial Age hierarchical silos. This 19th Century design is based on traditional authoritarian power (feudal lords and expendable serfs), upward lines of reporting, territorialism, management control of information, and expected ‘god-like’, infallible humans at the top to follow without question.  This formal structure exists for the control of resources, people and outcomes but not necessarily adaptable to today’s rapidly changing and increasingly complex world.

In a May 2011 “Harvard Business Review” article, Harvard Business School professor John Kotter suggests that hierarchical organizations inhibit timely transformations, which are essential if a business is to survive in a rapidly changing environment. He suggests that hierarchies work for standardized processes but they are not useful in dynamic environments. They are slow to react to new opportunities, which often require transformative change.

To extend Dr. Kotter’s point, I believe that traditional, hierarchical structures cannot fully reflect, and may actually inhibit, the desired values, attitudes and practices that are needed to deal with the complexities, risks, competitive innovations, market changes, political changes, customer expectations and rate of change that organizations have to deal with today.

I believe that the 21st Century needs structures that move from  Industrial Age silos toward the Interconnected Age such as collaborative, functionally integrated, value-based networks linked by integrated information and value streams, and where ‘positional leadership’ is a thing of the past. Maybe, some day, a person is not defined by their position, but by their merit and character as reflective of the desired values of that organization.

It is important to remember that an organizational design must be constantly aligned to and in support of the business model and strategic focus of the organization. Such must also reflect and become a synergistic reflection of the values of the organization.

How would you design an organization that would effectively function in a complex world of change and challenges? What would that look like?

How does the design of your organization, its business process, IT/IS systems, structure and customer interface embed and thus reflect your values so internal and external people actually experience such consistently and congruently in their interactions with your organization?


These days ‘information technology’ (IT/IS) could be considered the blood flow of an organization. Human interaction with the design of technology is a critical aspect of the forming of an organizational culture.

Closed IT/IS systems silo information to traditional power structures which control decision-making, influence and power.

Open IT/IS systems share information as a network so people have information at all levels where decision-making, influence and power is shared as an integrated, collaborative network.

The question:
Do the people serve the technology, or does the technology serve people?

One key interest I have in technology is its design and function in relation to manifesting Organizational Culture, Integrated Collaborative Networks, Emergent Action Research, and Self-Agency – some important fundamentals of EOD®.

Summary Thoughts

Through my studies, practice, and observations I believe that the ‘influencing patterns’ people experience over time constitutes how they will begin to perceive and define the culture of an organization. This is in line with the Emergent Change® Platform.

Thus, I believe the desired culture needs to be embedded and reflected in an organization’s business model, their strategic goals, their business systems and processes, their ‘leadership systems’, their technology systems, and their organizational design. In doing so, with conscious effort and guidance, the desired culture will emerge and form new norms and practices as a living organizational culture.

Bottom line, if you want to change the culture give people a different experience that is consistent and congruent with the desired values of the organization within an open system of Emergent Change®.

All thoughts about these ideas as well as other feedback are appreciated.

© Patrick A. Trottier
The Institute Of Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change®

About Patrick A. Trottier

I am a 30 plus year applied Organizational Development practitioner having honed my craft in the U.S., Canada and internationally. Presently living in beautiful Vancouver, B.C., I am currently developing the next evolution of O.D. termed; 'Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® (EODC)®, and focusing on Emergent OD®, Emergent Change® and the development of Emergent Organizations® within my professional practice.
This entry was posted in Change, Culture, Emergent Change, Emergent OD and Change, Emergent Organizational Development, Emergent Organizations, home, Leadership, Organizational Design, Organizational Development, Patterns, Perception, Performance, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Living Culture

  1. Kellie says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with your views!

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