Culture is hard to define and even harder to work with. Culture is at the core of everything we do. Culture is people coming together and finding ways of relating to each other. Culture is the interaction of values, beliefs, actions and symbols. Culture is continuity as it makes traditions live on when some leave and new come. Culture is also constant change, as it is the product of neverending negotiations between human beings over what is right, true and beautiful.  We love to dive into this complexity and see if we can make sense,  connection and positive movement.  

Our approach to working with culture

Leadership and culture

Culture is a reflection of leadership. Leaders shape the culture of an organisation, sometimes without knowing it. After years of working with organizational culture and cultural change, we know that there is no way to succeed with cultural change if leaders are not willing to work on their own awareness and style of leadership. In an increasingly complex and volatile world, leaders know that cultures must adapt, but are often not willing to dedicate enough time to leading this change. Leaders often find themselves "out of sync" with the employees or are insecure about how to understand and fill the new leader role. ViiB supports leaders and leader teams in gaining a better understanding of the current culture, defining the needed culture change and carving out and practicing the leader role.

Culture and strategy alignement

We all know Peter Drucker's quote "culture eats strategy for breakfast". Unfortunately, this is often true because organisations do not pay enough attention to the cultural aspect of a strategy implementation.
Clear strategic goals, priorities and actions are necessary, but not sufficient, for successful change. We often see organisations stumbling in the implementation phase because the employees are not on board or suffer from a general change fatigue. In ViiB we work with culture as an enabler for strategy implementation and transformation. We link all our work on culture closely to the organisation's vision, mission and strategic goals.

Systemic approach

We belive that in order to succeed with transformation, the whole system has to change. Any system is consists of a combination of structural and cultural elements, individual and collective perspectives and intangible and tangible cultural elements. All of these aspects of a system has to move in order for a change to happen. When we work with organizational change, you need to address individual values and motivations as well as collective culture, structure and works processes. In our work we integrate a systemic perspective by working with leader as part of their teams, with teams as part of the organisation. And we always look at how to align culture and structure to create real change.
To understand the whole, it is necessary to understand the parts. To understand the parts, it is necessary to understand the whole. Such is the circle of understanding. Ken Wilber

Start with the values

Values is a shorthand way of describing what is important to us and what drives and motivates us. Values are deeply personal, and at the same time what connects us to each other. Values bind us together in groups. When we work with cultural change, we always start with the values. Values are the invisible foundation of all human behavior. In order to access values, you have to ask and go into dialogue with people. Organisations with values alignment, where employees personal values are aligned with the organisations values, perform a lot better over time. Our processes aim to increase the values alignment in the organisation.

How we work

Proven methodology

The Barrett method is developed to map what motivates employees and what is the core of an organizational culture, so that leaders and organizations can work concretely and systematically with cultural development. The model is based on inner motivation by presenting a picture of the values ​​that mean something to us and which thus drive our actions and behavior. Values ​​have a direct impact on our decisions, consciously or (often) unconsciously. To build a healthy and effective culture in a team or in an organization, knowing inner motivation is a great advantage.

Structured process

Mapping the values of individuals and organizations provides a good starting point for bringing out strengths and challenges in today’s culture, and provides a basis for defining the desired culture, as well as laying out a concrete plan to get there.

Step 1: Understand: What motivates individuals and teams.

Step 2: Diagnose: What elements in the culture supports you mission and goals what steals the energy away?

Step 3: Find the way forward: The data provides a basis for defining clear goals for the desired culture and a starting point for developing a concrete plan for development.

Step 4: Make change stick through training and practicing and making adjustments to operating model.

Practical approach

An increasing number of companies use the Barrett method to work systematically and concretely with cultural development. In addition, many smaller teams and organizations use the method to understand the motivation and unleash the potential of the team. Some examples:

– Finding common values and build common identity in large, global organizations

– Develop a common cultural platform an identity after mergers and reorganisations.

– Build a more innovative culture in of openness and risktaking in traditional public organisations

– Resolve conflicts and develop healthier cultures

– Give managers insight into their own values and leadership behavior

common questions

Cultural change takes time, but our experience is that if you work systematically with the culture of an organisation, it is possible to make big leaps in just monts. We know this because we use the Barretts cultural assessment tool to measure change, and in organisations where leaders live the change and involve employees in defining and creating a common culture, we can measure significant changes after just a year. Some necessary requirement for this is:

  • Top leader commitment
  • Involving process throughout the organisations
  • Willingness from leaders to employe value based decision making, even when the “going gets tough” and short term gain can seem more tempting

Often, but it doesn’t have to. What we do see, is that failing to involve, listen to and pay attention to whether employees are on board makes implementation of the best strategies and plans fail. We think that the constant rush to get things done and be productive, makes leaders and employees fail to spend time on the most important questions: Why are we doing this? What makes us us motivated to do this? And how can we solve this together (and even have fun doing it)? In any strategy implementation, “going slow to go fast” is a very important principle. 

There are many mays of defining culture, but when we use the word culture we stick to the following definition: The shared set of (implicit and explicit) values, ideas, concepts, and rules of behaviour that allow a social group to function and perpetuate itself. 

Culture is a beautiful combination of continuity and change. Even if culture is perpetuating traditions and customs, it is also the product of a continuous negotiation between people on what is right, true and desirable.

In order to succeed with a change, the whole system has to change and be aligned. One example of misalignment would be if a company chooses the value openness, but have a very secretive way of promoting employees, or hold up cooperation as a core value but only reward individual results. Employees who experience misalignment between spoken values and the way leaders act of the way they the organisation operates, often end up feeling less motivated and even distrustful. 

In a transformation temporary misalignment is unavoidable as different aspects of the organisation will change at different pace. In this case, it is important that leaders are transparent about the process and open to influence form employees. 


There will always be different perspectives and ways of doing things in different parts of an organisations. We see this primarily as a great source of creativity and development as long as the communications lines between are functioning and there is a mutual respect and curiosity.    


We are still thinking ….

We are still thinking ….

Cape Town, South Africa