Culture has played an increasingly critical role in organizations across all domains, and we know that people across organizational levels have become more aware of how vital its role is in shaping strategy, impacting organizational success, and deepening employee engagement. At the same time, the pandemic, and the necessary responses to it, have tested organizational culture in ways that we are just taking stock of and that may have long-lasting impact.
We know that organizations with purposeful, collaborative, inclusive, and psychologically safe cultures have more engaged and effective leaders, staff, and teams, and deliver better outcomes and greater impact. And while culture can be difficult to define and measure, it fundamentally shapes organizational success. We define culture as “how we do things around here,” the set of rules and assumptions for getting work done.  Leaders reinforce cultural norms and behaviors every day, whether intentionally or not, and can play a critical role in shaping their organization’s culture and ultimately its success.
Yet in the response to COVID-19, organizations have had to do many things in new ways—working across roles and in new staffing configurations in healthcare, quickly “pivoting” to virtual learning and online instruction in education, and trimming costs and sometimes staff and salaries in the corporate world. Decisions had to be made more quickly than usual; strategic plans flexed and revised. We are seeing how culture has been both an asset during these times of turbulence, a source of resilience, and also how the “rules and assumptions” have been quickly revised as years of change get collapsed into months. Some cultural tissue has been stretched and even ruptured.
We are confident, though, that as organizations begin to plan for a post-crisis landscape, they will regard culture as an even more critical lens through which to see their strengths and opportunities, and a foundation from which to heal and innovate.
We have developed a new approach help facilitate this work: to take stock of where you are as an organization at this time, and build on your strengths, learn from the challenges you faced, and take forward the positive innovations (what CFAR calls “found pilots”) that you have rapidly put into place. The CORE approach helps leadership to create a roadmap for the organization’s next phase, and to lead change from both the top down and the bottom up so that you can intentionally shape the culture that you need for a successful future.
 O'Connor, M., & Dornfeld, B. (2014). The Moment You Can't Ignore: When Big Trouble Leads to a Great Future. New York, NY: PublicAffairs. http://themomentyoucantignore.com.