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This mini-case study is part of our Culture-in-Action Series.

A foundational precept of Keystone’s approach to the evaluation and improvement of culture in organizations is the need for “shared belief systems”. Organizational leaders can operate from multiple sustained and temporal shared belief systems. For example, a sustained belief system may be foundational to the mission of an organization, while the belief system that underpins an organizational strategic plan may be temporal. The culture of a championship professional sports team is underpinned by a head coach’s sustaining belief system regarding long term team success and culture, and yet, that same coach may base the strategy for winning a specific game on the need for a shared belief system among and between assistant coaches and players that differs from opponent to opponent.

Keystone Culture Group Case Vignette:

While leading a session on the value of shared belief systems with a community hospital governing board, a trustee “pushes back” by saying that she doesn’t believe that everyone on the board should “think the same way”. This statement reflected an unintended understanding of the concept of “shared beliefs”. Keystone’s perspective on “shared belief systems” is they are the basis of all important decisions, including both the strategy and culture of organizations. The process of developing shared beliefs is as valuable as the end result. The process respects differences in perspectives regarding a belief system, and even with the result in-hand, leaders are free to debate specific decisions regarding related actions and tactics. A governing board, for example, can believe that, over time, the organization will need to employ the majority of physicians required for it to meet its strategic goals, but stakeholders can debate how that belief becomes a reality. It is recognized that a final decision on a belief system need not require a “uniformity of beliefs”. Few decisions by leadership teams do. However, to move teams and organizations forward in confusing markets and in turbulent times, requires a sufficiency of shared beliefs. This sufficiency permits and facilitates decision making while, supporting a culture of shared accountability for decisions and results.

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