The Fifth Element – Culture, Values and Strategy


In a nutshell . . .

This module shows how workplace innovation, and especially the Workplace Diagnostic results, can be used to support senior teams in identifying the organisational practices that either enable or obstruct the achievement of strategic goals and objectives. Likewise, it shows that workplace innovation is an integral and powerful component of corporate strategy when senior teams fully understand it and commit themselves to addressing difficult issues.

Leaders and senior teams are responsible for aligning the whole organisation to shared vision, values and strategy. Vision, values and strategy are meaningful and effective only when the workplace practices, policies and targets that shape employees’ attitudes, behaviours and day-to-day experience – at organisational, departmental and team levels – create a system that is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

The Essential Fifth Element highlights the interdependence between the bundles of workplace practices represented in the four Elements. Each Element is influenced, for better or worse, by the extent of its alignment with the others.

When the four Elements are aligned with each other they create a powerful, self-sustaining system of mutually reinforcing parts – in short, the Fifth Element. It is a culture of engagement and continuing innovation that is only possible when leaders take a systemic view of their own organisational structures and practices. And, of course, this requires tenacity. It means challenging deeply embedded attitudes and behaviours, asking difficult questions, and being open to diverse ideas and practices from a wide range of other organisations.

Research strongly supports a systemic approach to change and provides evidence that individual interventions rarely achieve anticipated results without the alignment of the other, interdependent workplace practices that exist at every level of the organisation. A Europe-wide study in 2002 showed that one of the biggest causes of failure in workplace innovation was “partial change” – a failure to recognise the extent of these interdependent practices. It is as though antibodies set out to attack the new and unfamiliar ideas that threaten established ways of doing things. We’ll explore this further in the People-Centred Change module.

Each Element can provide the starting point for transformation. Yet wherever you begin, the eventual journey will involve the critical examination and alignment of every aspect of working practice and culture throughout the organisation.


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