Building a Positive Organizational Culture and Climate

Advance Organizational Success

Does your program struggle to find or keep staff? Do you find it challenging to help staff understand and align with organizational beliefs about how students learn or how staff interact with one another? You may need to clearly express the culture and climate guiding your work. This Click & Go will help you manage the important work of defining and documenting organizational values and the behaviors that demonstrate those values.


To enable participants to:

  • Understand the importance of developing vision, mission, culture and climate statements.

  • Use culture and climate to build a positive environment for staff, students and families.

Zip Link (257 MB) Select link to download the resources in this Click & Go!


Mini-Lesson: Advance Organizational Success

Organizational Culture and Students

This podcast discusses how to make your program’s culture and climate shine throughout your program, especially with respect to students. [Download transcript]

Organizational Culture and Families

This podcast discusses how the culture and climate of a program can and should impact your students and your families. [Download transcript]

Recruiting Staff to Fit Your Organizational Culture

In this podcast, a practitioner discusses how she and her team developed a positive organizational culture by intentionally aligning hiring practices to the organization's vision, mission and values. [Download transcript]

Leading Your Organization’s Culture and Climate

In this podcast we speak with a practitioner who shares how she has built a positive organizational culture through continuously modeling her organization's core values. [Download transcript]

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD): School Culture and Climate

This ASCD resource provides definitions and short videos on organizational culture. This site also offers links to articles, books, webinars and online learning opportunities for implementing organizational culture in academic settings. LINK School Climate

This webpage provides links to a variety of materials on organizational culture, including articles, tools and guides, webinars, presentations, and youth topics. LINK

ASCD article: How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom

This ASCD book proposes that building culture should be a part of a strategic effort. It summarizes aspects of organizational culture, proven responses and action research. LINK


Implementing Restorative Practices in Schools by Margaret Thorsborne and Peta Blood, 2013

This book includes several chapters that provide a general overview of change theory and practical advice for leading change. The context for change given in the book is the implementation of restorative practices. LINK

Organizational Culture Change: Unleashing your Organization’s Potential in Circles of 10 by Marcella Bremer, 2012

This pragmatic approach to organizational culture, change and leadership addresses the failings that many organizations face when trying to make change. Marcella Bremer offers a variety of strategies and best practices. LINK

Our Iceberg Is Melting by John Kotter

John Kotter's pioneer­ing research into the eight steps that can produce needed change in any sort of group comes together in this story of resistance to change and heroic action. The story provides a powerful framework for influencing your team, no matter how big or small. LINK

School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It by Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker

Drawing on decades of research on organizational culture and school leadership, these education experts offer tools, strategies and advice for defining, assessing and ultimately transforming an organization’s culture to be positive, enriching and forward looking. LINK

It is not uncommon for staff members with different experiences and beliefs to have different understandings of values. However, it is important to create shared understandings of your values so your entire team can successfully create a cohesive climate. Work with your team to create climate statements that say exactly what each value looks or feels like in action, and document those. This activity helps to define clear expectations for how staff should view and enact the values, and can paint a picture of your overall program climate. Having your team develop the climate statements together embeds buy-in and ownership.

When creating a planning team, be sure to include members who represent all stakeholder groups, including families. The team will create a shared understanding of the program and its practices as the vision and mission are formed. They will also be able to support development of a communications plan for sharing program practices with families and other stakeholders. Remember that your culture should inform every aspect of your program and every interaction with stakeholders. Review your climate statements to make sure they apply to your families as well as to your students and staff.

Use your program team’s climate statements as guideposts for follow-up observations. Look for staff demonstrating the agreed-upon behaviors outlined in the statements. Program supervisors should focus on using good communication practices and feedback cycles to monitor and support frontline staff in implementation. Remember, a positive organizational culture will develop only if expected behaviors and actions are clear and known by staff. Be sure to share progress and celebrate accomplishments. At staff meetings, have everyone discuss examples of culture and climate they have witnessed, or highlight a particular staff member who has done a great job embodying the program culture. In areas that need to improve, provide follow-up professional development that includes modeling success or using role-play to have staff master behaviors.

Be sure your organization’s core values include words such as honesty, trust and respect. When defining your core values through climate statements, specifically list the behaviors associated with open communication, such as these: (a) we listen first, or (b) we recognize that other people’s experiences may differ from our own. Then, search for organizations with similar core values and beliefs. When you establish partnerships, create a memorandum of understanding (MOU) where, in addition to partner responsibilities, you outline how communication will occur.