The Six Immutable Principles of a Dynamic Culture

A few weeks ago, someone asked me, “If you could do anything other than be a writer, what would you choose to do?” I didn’t have to think about it; I have thought about it before: I’d be a musician. As a writer, I get to process life, ideas, and experiences through words. I love being a wordsmith for this and many other reasons. Musicians get to process the world through music, and music touches people on a soul level, in the same way and in different ways books do.

Did you know that music is made up of just twelve notes? Think about all your favorite songs and then consider the history of music in every genre: twelve notes.

Dynamic Cultures are made up of less than twelve notes. Half that many, in fact: just six. In the coming pages, instead of telling you a hundred things you should be doing in your organization to transform the culture, I’m going to teach you to do just six things, and I’ll encourage you to do them with growing excellence. And I cannot tell you how excited I am to share them with you, and teach you how to drive them deep into the life of your organization and enjoy the fruits of a Dynamic Culture that you helped create.

The music of Dynamic Cultures is made up of six notes. Learn to play these six notes really well and your culture will become something to marvel at.

My preference would be to reveal them one at a time in the coming chapters, but something tells me that a bird’s-eye view of the whole model from the outset may serve you better. So, here they are, the Six Immutable Principles of a Dynamic Culture:

  • Principal One: Make Culture a Priority

  • Principal Two: Mission Is King

  • Principal Three: Overcommunicate the Plan

  • Principal Four: Hire with Rigorous Discipline

  • Principal Five: Let People Know What You Expect

  • Principal Six: Grow Your People by Creating a Coaching Culture

There they are. Building a Dynamic Culture is about master-ing these six aspects of organizational life. The heart and soul of this book is about teaching you how to become an advocate for each of them, regardless of your role or position within the organization.

I labored over how exactly to describe the six principles, and finally settled on immutable after long and tiresome thought. Sometimes I think I torture myself unnecessarily over these things, but I always return to the fact that a wordsmith owes his or her readers just that kind of torture. Anyway, I chose the word immutable because it means “unchanging.”

Many things will change about your organization’s culture in the decades to come, but these six principles will remain. For years I have studied organizational culture and the cultures of thousands of organizations so that I could strip away everything that is fleeting, superficial, and transient, and the myriad of passing fads, in order to present you with the essence of culture and, more important, the very foundation upon which to build a Dynamic Culture.

Why is it so important to find the essence of culture? Because the essence of something is unchanging. For it is those things that are unchanging that allow us to make sense of change. So, at a time when change has never been more constant or intense, what is unchanging is more valuable than ever before. Wherever people gather for a common purpose, these six principles will hold their relevance.

People come up with dozens of ideas every month about how the culture of their organization could be improved. How do we decide which ideas to implement and which ideas not to implement? The quick and easy litmus test is to ask: Will this idea help this organization become a-better-version-of-itself? If the answer is no, then you need not waste any more time on it. If the answer is yes, the next question to ask ourselves is: Which of the six principles will it strengthen? If it does not find a home within one of the six immutable principles, then chances are it is a passing fad and should be treated as worse than a distraction.

The six principles are your North Star in your organization’s journey to build an amazing culture. Would a sailor trade the North Star for a powerful spotlight that could easily break? Would a man of the sea trade the North Star for a fancy new untested navigational system? Nor should you trade these six principles—for anything!

Matthew Kelly, The Culture Solution