What makes a culture scalable?

by | Jun 21, 2024 | Brand Expression, Corporate culture

In recent work with clients, I have heard senior management express their belief that culture underpins how things are done and the level of success possible for an organisation – achieved in the right way. I’ve witnessed mid-managers say they want strong leadership of culture from the top and alignment of culture to help them integrate it meaningfully with their teams.

I have heard staff identify problems with scaling culture such as:

  • Over 80% of staff feeling ‘less than clear’ on the organisation’s values and what they mean for the individual or team, including vastly different experiences of values inductions for new employees, and experiences of ‘dropping’ values conversations beyond early employment.
  • A lack of confidence in articulating ‘who we are’, ‘where we are going’ and ‘what we stand for’ – despite a general feeling of pride in the company they work for.
  • A need for better and more frequent communication of culture and vision from the top, and more opportunities for a 2-way exchange, and for sharing across teams and functions.
  • A desire from leadership to work with everyone in the organisation and community on building a strong culture, but a lack of clarity on how to go about this.

Given the agreement on the importance of getting culture right, how do you clarify the culture you need for the future of your business (including the parts of your culture that can already be celebrated and leveraged) and how do you ensure everyone is oriented from that perspective as you grow?

How do you make a culture scalable?


The mining and resources industry is currently faced with the challenge of articulating a shift in purpose: how is it genuinely contributing to solving the environmental and social challenges of the world; how are companies demonstrating that they are operating to high ESG standards, while continuing to sustain business growth?

One client needed to attract high volumes of quality staff to accelerate operations, in order to quickly capitalise on their green energy opportunity, while working in harmony with varied stakeholder groups. It was time to reinvent their messaging about ‘Who we are’, ‘Where we are going’ and ‘Why that matters’, balancing its proud community roots with its focus on a bigger future.

Most importantly, the process of brand and culture reinvention needed to be structured in a way that would ensure it was led strongly from the top, that it would be meaningful to all stakeholders, and that it would be sustainably integrated – ‘not an event, but a path’.

That meant collectively saying NO to:

  • A one-and-done “Purpose & Values Day” offsite;
  • A siloed approach to brand development or to recruitment promotions, without considering what is happening inside the organisation;
  • Decision-making in a boardroom about culture, without first deeply listening to the people involved in living out that culture;
  • ‘Launching the new culture’ in a day, then simply returning to business as usual.

To do this right, we needed some time – and everyone’s participation. Not easy in a large (and quickly growing) organisation, working across various sites in a multitude of roles, and always, always busy!

We needed many ways to reach stakeholders, to be able to achieve meaningful consultation and communication across board and leadership, managers and team members, government and community stakeholders.

We started where they were at, undertaking a guided process of uncovering key messages with detailed, collaborative iteration to get to final versions of Purpose, Vision, Values and Brand messaging. We guided the formulation of leadership and organisation-wide communication strategy to cascade these messages and their importance, throughout the organisation and community – and reinforce them over time.

Most meaningfully, we didn’t forget that a culture isn’t built by overlaying shiny new messaging over BAU. We advised on accessible, practical ways people at various levels within the organisation can review and align governance, strategy, structures, systems, operations, standards and rituals to reflect the brand and culture, with attention to leadership capabilities, employee life cycles, team and individual KPIs and measurement.


  • Intentional, well-planned language allows us to define and share a culture. Our statements around Purpose, Vision, Values and Culture Characteristics help us make Brand & Culture more visible, more definable, more measurable… and therefore more leadable and scalable.
  • Remember that for culture to be scalable, it takes real work, not throwing a parade. It requires a close look at how culture impacts and is impacted by the organisation’s big assumptions and structures, and its daily practices and rituals. It means connection to all stakeholders, to all parts of the business, and to the outward-facing brand. This takes time and an organised, all-in approach.
  • The team manager has the biggest influence because they have the day-to-day touchpoints and are the visible role models. How are you empowering, supporting and aligning team leaders to engage their teams in regular conversations and practices that support the culture?