REAL RESEARCH: The Culture Game


by Bryan Chuang

OD Catalyst

“Culture isn’t just part of the game, culture is the game”, this was what former CEO of IBM, Lou Gerstner, said regarding IBM’s culture when it was going through a transformation period. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, what ultimately makes an organisation truly unique is not its systems, processes, structure, skills, performance or even people, but its culture. Culture dictates how an organisation does things and thereby, determines its operational, tactical and strategic planning, and execution. 

However, no matter how unique an organisation’s culture (or core values) can be, without its leaders leading and living it out, it will just be words that are hung on the wall - organisational members may know them as head knowledge but will never experience them and be fully integrated into the organisation. A worse case scenario might happen, whereby employees will be misaligned to their core values. Enron is a prime example of such misalignment, leading to its downfall. 

Leadership guru Dr. John Maxwell said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. So how do leaders lead and live out their organisation’s core values (or culture), so that organisational members can be aligned and demonstrate them?



  • Talk about the kind of organisation culture that you are looking for during occasions such as orientation, training sessions, meetings and even over-the-table coffee talk. 
  • Tell stories of how organisational members had demonstrated core values that had led to a positive outcome.



  • Match what you do and say about your culture
  • The way you handle difficult situations, make decisions, lead your people - do they demonstrate or conflict with the organisation’s core values?



  • Ensure that organisational policies, systems and process are all aligned to its culture



  • Reward organisational members who have exhibited the culture in a timely manner
  • Beyond monetary terms, these could be a few ways to do it:
  • Recognise them at staff meetings 
  • Send a “well done” card to them 
  • Give them a token of appreciation. (Cafe or movie vouchers, or gift cards) 
  • Include a section to specially recognise staff on organisation’s website or newsletter.


What culture is like to an organisation, is what personality is like to a person. Culture gives an organisation an identity that is uniquely its own. It is something that neither competitors nor partners can duplicate. Other organisations can imitate your organisation’s products, services, structure, systems and/or processes, but they can never ever imitate your organisation’s culture - your organisation is what it is because of its culture. 


"Lou Gerstner’S Turnaround Tales At IBM - Knowledge@Wharton". Knowledge@Wharton. N.p., 2016. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

"What’s Culture Got To Do With It?: A Guide For Leaders". N.p., 2016. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

"Recognizing And Rewarding Your Staff". N.p., 2016. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

"Five Elements Of Building An Organizational Culture | Zingtrain". N.p., 2016. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.


What have you done to shape your organisation’s culture? We would love to hear from you at