As a new leader, where should “assess current culture” be on your list of priorities?
As a management consultant, I often recommend to clients who bring in new leadership that they need to let the new leader perform their own recommended forensic assessment of the company and the areas under the leader's control. The forensic assessment should identify what processes work well, those that do not, and the talents of the people working in those areas. I also recommend immersion in the saes process in a discovery session with other peer level managers to better understand the level of knowledge each group has concerning processes and operational aspects and interrelationships between the groups. Culture should be observed as perhaps a byproduct of the processes, history of actions, and the personalities found in ech area. Understanding the culture allows the new leader to assess needs to change,as well as where the pain points will be.
New leaders should be doing this informally from day 1. I suspect many leaders will be doing it subconsciously as they look at the changes they introduce and which ones land well and what seem to meet resistance.
As to when a formal assessment needs to take place, well I guess that depends on the other priorities. However, I’d say it isn’t necessarily a ‘first 100 days’ activity.
Assessment of the current culture should be the top priority for a new leader. This will provide a base line from which to design strategic planning, in order to improve interrelationships, improve efficiency , and prolong the prosperity and viability of the organization. It’s an important strategy to understand the dynamics of the work culture and change the negative, nonproductive aspects of that environment to one that induces happiness and eagerness to perform optimally, creating a sense of ownership of the business operations.
Culture is definitely a key aspect of any organization (formal or informal, large or small).
I agree that its assessment should be continuous; however, it also has to be structured and intentional. For instance, it is easy to get sidetracked by individual events or occurrences from some parts or people within the organization, but this should not define the entire cultural identity - no matter how tempting it is when a new leader is drinking from a firehose, for example.
At the same time, assessing of culture is one thing, redefining and renewing it is another. As a living entity, any organization is evolving, and a leader should maintain its alignment throughout people, processes, culture, and more.