Organizational Culture: So Important – So Misunderstood

We created some new frameworks for the 3rd edition of our book The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan, and then made them a centerpiece of the 4th edition. One of those is the BRAVE cultural framework. At some level, everyone knows culture is important, but people struggle to define, understand, and influence it.  Since we originally created this framework, many have found BRAVE helpful in building shared cultural understanding and action and, of course, continually evolve it. So this post may not match our book exactly.

BRAVE Cultural Framework

BRAVE encapsulates components of culture including the way people Behave, Relate, their Attitude, Values, and the work Environment they create:

Behave: What impact – implementation.

  • Working Units: from independent individuals to interdependent work teams
  • Discipline: from fluid and flexible (guidelines) to structured and disciplined (policies)
  • Bias: from surprising breakthrough – big leaps to reliable, repeatable steady progress

Relate: How to connect – communication.

  • Identity of people: from the overall organization to units/sub-groups
  • Communication manner: from informal, verbal, face-to-face to formal, directed, written
  • Power and decision making: from diffused and debated to controlled and monarchical

Attitude: How to win – choices.

  • Posture: from proactive to responsive.
  • Focus: from ideas out to customer needs in
  • Strategy emphasis: from premium price, service, innovation to low price, low service and minimum viable product

Values: What matters and why – purpose

  • Interpretation of mission, vision, values: from as intended (evolving) to as written (set)
  • Risk appetite: from risk more/gain more to protect what is
  • Learning: from open and shared to directed

Environment: Where to play – context

  • Impetus: from opportunities to capture to problems to solve
  • Enablers: from human, interpersonal, societal to technical, mechanical, scientific
  • Barriers: from external hurdles to internal capabilities

In the end, a BRAVE culture is one that is ready to change in terms of will and skill.

Applying BRAVE to Onboarding and Leading

BRAVE has application at several onboarding steps.


BRAVE has direct applicability to the “Fit” question: “Can we tolerate working with you?”  (One of the only three interview questions.)  It is useful to probe interviewees’ past Behaviors, experience Relating to colleagues, Attitudes, Values, and work Environments they’ve created in order to help assess how well they will fit with the organization’s current culture and move it in a desireable direction.

Due Diligence

When the tables are turned after the offer, BRAVE is applicable to the “Fit” question in reverse. Due Diligence should include a look at organizational Behaviors, experience Relating to colleagues, Attitudes, Values, and the work Environments they’ve created.

Engaging with the Culture

The learning from Due Diligence flows into how the new leader prepares to engage with that culture during his or her Fuzzy Front End.  It’s important to look at culture and context at the same time as we describe in our article on culture and context.

BRAVE Results

It’s all about Better Results Faster.  “Better” results are BRAVE results, comprised of what is delivered, and the Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, and work Environment that underpin how the team works together to deliver those results.  Ends and means both count as described in The New Leader’s Playbook.