Conscious Agility and Build The Culture Advantage

Tim Kuppler (@TimKuppler) gratuitously honored my request for an advanced / review copy of Build the Culture Advantage (with co-authors Ted Garnett and Tom Morehead and with contributing authors Edward Marshall and Scott Beilke).

Based on our experience working with clients, and Artful Transformation and Conscious Agility (with co-authors Brad Barton and Mark Ferraro), I was very intrigued!

Being somewhat cautious (if not suspicious) of so-called gurus and thought leaders championing their so-called wisdom on leadership, culture, strategy, transformation, etc. through keynotes and executive coaching focused on the “soft stuff” without a more deliberate and holistic approach rooted in “practice” that more-so integrates the “soft stuff” and “hard stuff,” I was open-minded but somewhat cautious in approaching Build the Culture Advantage! To say the least — Build the Culture Advantage does not disappoint!

Build the Culture Advantage

Build the Culture Advantage is a guide about “building a performance culture,” offering:

  • A framework for evaluating the operating drivers of your current culture and a best practice guide for leveraging them to improve performance
  • A complete roadmap for major efforts to implement a performance culture

The emphasis on culture and performance is further elaborated:

Culture is a powerful force but it remains an elusive or mysterious subject. It’s been easier to tackle the more concrete subjects of strategy, talent management, or even leadership. There are plenty of improvement frameworks for those disciplines. Unfortunately there aren’t many, if any, simple, logical, and common-sense frameworks for effectively leveraging and aligning the culture of an organization with a direct connection to performance. This work is focused on how to reinforce or adjust the primary systems, habits, and behaviors of an organization so they consistently support the core values and a clear vision for the future. It is possible to accelerate the culture learning curve and manage culture with a great deal of clarity, but leaders need a guide. They need a clear and customizable framework grounded in common-sense language and approaches that applies across all levels of any industry.

Build the Culture Advantage emphasizes that “there aren’t many, if any, simple, logical, and common-sense frameworks for effectively leveraging and aligning the culture of an organization with a direct connection to performance” and it explicitly identifies the need for a “clear and customizable framework grounded in common-sense language and approaches that applies across all levels of any industry.”

To that end, Build the Culture Advantage offers a Performance (Operating Drivers) Culture Framework, Culture Maturity Model, Culture Alignment Roadmap (Phases), and much more.

Conscious Agility

Conscious Agility — which emerges from Conscious Capitalism, Business Agility, and Antifragility and our individual and collective experience fully rooted in decades of practice across many industry domains — is a design-thinking approach for business ecosystems that integrates awareness with intuition, orientation, and improvisation so that individuals and collectives may benefit from uncertainty, disorder, and the unknown.

See Conscious Agility: A Brief Introduction for more information.

Build the Culture Advantage’s Performance Culture Framework  and Conscious Agility

The Performance (Operating Drivers) Culture Framework organizes operating drivers into four categories, two backbone and two additional.

  • Strategic and Financial Alignment [backbone] — the process and supporting structure of priorities and expectations required to align values, strategic priorities, goals, measures, and, most importantly, expected behavior with a clear vision for the future of the organization.
  • Motivation [backbone] — the connection of priorities and expectations to formal and informal systems to reinforce results and behavior. This includes base-level motivators like compensation and benefits, as well as management and peer recognition that leads to higher level motivators like pride and the individual sense of being able to make an “impact.”
  • Talent Management — the systems for developing and using the talent in the organization to realize the vision, priorities, and expectations.
  • Core Process Improvement — improvement of the primary systems the organization uses for managing work. This includes base management systems for monitoring and managing priorities and plans as well as core “operating” processes (sales, production, customer service, etc.).

The Strategic and Financial Alignment category of the Performance Culture Framework relates to Conscious Agility’s Purpose, Value, and Canvas (way of working together).

The Motivation category of the Performance Culture Framework relates to Conscious Agility’s Values and Canvas (way of working together).

The Talent Management category of the Performance Culture Framework relates to Conscious Agility’s Stakeholders and Canvas (way of working together).

The Core Process Improvement category of the Performance Culture Framework relates to Conscious Agility’s Canvas (way of working together).

Build the Culture Advantage’s Culture Maturity Model and Conscious Agility

The Culture Maturity Model organizes the framework around developing a performance culture (improvement levels) over time.

Culture Level 1: Reactive

  • Strategic and Financial Alignment:
    • Lack of clear priorities/goals & system for managing status & plans.
  • Core Process Improvement:
    • Major pain managing many core processes.
    • Negative impact on employees & customers.
  • Motivation:
    • Major trust issues & a break-down of communication.
  • Talent Management:
    • Ineffective or limited talent management systems.

Culture Level 2: Functional

  • Strategic and Financial Alignment:
    • Clear strategic priorities/goals & adequate system for managing status & plans.
  • Core Process Improvement:
    • Substantial pain managing some core processes.
    • Improvement clearly needed to reduce frustrations.
  • Motivation:
    • Foundation of trust & communication.
    • Basic management recognition but improvement needed.
  • Talent Management:
    • Limited application of effective team structures.
    • Basic competency development & performance management.

Culture Level 3: Collaborative

  • Strategic and Financial Alignment:
    • A motivating vision is effectively supported by collaborative priorities crossing functions or boundaries.
    • All levels understand financial drivers & supporting measures.
  • Core Process Improvement:
    • Effective core processes but streamlining opportunities remain.
    • Effective application of lean and/or other improvement tools.
  • Motivation:
    • Solid trust & communication systems.
    • Strong management recognition. Incentives at individual, team & organization levels.
  • Talent Management:
    • A hierarchy of teams exists.
    • Clear performance management with feedback from multiple sources.
    • Solid competency development aligned with priorities/goals.

Culture Level 4: High Performance:

  • Strategic and Financial Alignment:
    • Full Strategic Alignment with individuals, teams & the organization continually optimizing & innovating.
    • Financial drivers fully understood & clearly supported by relevant measures & goals at all levels.
  • Core Process Improvement:
    • Efficient, innovative & market-leading core processes are continuously improved.
    • Advanced application of lean or other progressive improvement tools.
  • Motivation:
    • Deep trust & open communication exists at all levels.
    • Motivation & enthusiasm evident at all levels. Employees know they make an impact.
  • Talent Management:
    • Effective collaboration & teams at all levels. New hire fit assessed through teams & other approaches.
    • Fully aligned talent management systems with progressive development for competencies, leadership & succession.

Because Conscious Ability does not propose a maturity model per se, the Reactive (level 1), Functional (level 2), Collaborative (level 3), and Higher Performance (level 4) levels of the Culture Maturity Model are not directly related to a maturity model in Conscious Agility; but just as the Culture Maturity Model levels are related to the Culture Alignment Roadmap phases, the levels are related to Conscious Agility’s phases.

Build the Culture Advantage’s Culture Alignment Roadmap and Conscious Agility

The Culture Alignment Roadmap (Phases) organizes the framework over time with an emphasis on implementation.

Phase 1, Build the Foundation, is focused on moving from Reactive (level 1) to Functional (level 2).

Phase 1 – Building the Foundation: Define your unique culture, clarify expectations and priorities, and align your systems to clearly support the top one to three priorities. Move to the functional stage as the organization learns the behavior necessary to build positive momentum as a team.


    1. Evaluate current culture & performance.
    2. Clarify your initial vision.
    3. Clarify values & expected behaviors.


    1. Clarify strategic priorities.
    2. Engage teams in defining & translating SMART goals.
    3. Clarify & track key measures.


    1. Maintain a management system for priorities / goals.
    2. Manage communication habits & routines.
    3. Build motivation throughout the process.

Phase 2, Expand the Approach, is focused on moving from Functional to Collaborative (level 3).

Phase 2 – Expand the Approach: Build on the concepts learned in Phase 1 to support a greater vision for the future with emphasis on highly effective collaboration and developing key supporting competencies.

  • Develop a greater vision.
  • Build a culture of collaboration.
  • Develop key competencies.
  • Refine your foundation & drive collaboration as you “expand the approach.”

Phase 3, Go Deep, is about moving from Collaborative to High Performance (level 4).

Phase 3 – Go Deep (for sustainable performance): Implement more advanced improvement approaches as a team that support the greater vision with innovation and speed. Manage the continual development of leaders, succession development, and hiring practices that emphasize cultural fit to embed changes in the culture over time to achieve sustainable performance improvement.

  • Leverage leadership development.
  • Focus succession development.
  • Acquire talent to fit your developing culture.
  • Refine your foundation & drive innovation as you “go deep.”

Phase 1 (Build the Foundation) of the Culture Alignment Roadmap relates to Conscious Agility’s Phase 1 (Define). The Define, Align, and Manage aspects of Phase 1 of the Culture Alignment Roadmap relate to Conscious Agility’s Phase 1 “Discover a ‘minimal’ Ecosystem Definition” conversation cluster, and is adapted to whatever extent is needed to progress into Phase 2.

Phase 2 (Expand the Approach) of the Culture Alignment Roadmap relates to Conscious Agility’s Phase 2 (Create) where both approaches focus on expansion atop of Phase 1.

Phase 3 (Go Deep (for sustainable performance)) of the Culture Alignment Roadmap relates to Conscious Agility’s Phase 3 (Refine) where both approaches focus on sustainability atop of Phase 1 and 2.

Build the Culture Advantage and Conscious Agility

Fundamentally, Build the Culture Advantage and Conscious Agility are readily aligned around core concepts and human nature — and are both discovered in practice!

Highly encourage all “practitioners” in this space to visit and to learn more!


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