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  • Writer's pictureMark Olivito

The Oxygen Test on Culture

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

In Assessing Organizational Culture, I proposed the Relationship Churn Test to start to add rigor to one of the most critical areas of a business. Nothing is harder, and at the same time, more critical than figuring out a businesses culture.

While the Relationship Churn test was meant to add structure and quantify culture, here’s another method.

The Oxygen Test

When you walk through the business, do you get a sense that oxygen is being injected, at a constant level, or at dangerously low levels?

Oxygen is an appropriate metaphor. It’s odorless, colorless, and critical to life. You rarely think about it, unless you were short of it. Culture can be thought of the same way.

Let’s Deal with The Extremes, businesses with abundant oxygen and one’s that are short of it. Here’s some of the traits:

A Business ABUNDANT with Oxygen, here’s what you’ll see….

  • A vibe of positive energy. Smiles. Laughter. LOUD laughter that could be heard way down the hall

  • Optimism rules the day. Today may not be great, but there is universal belief that tomorrow is bright.

  • Results and “good work” matter more than who is performing it.

  • A feeling of “Stature” does not permeate the air….

  • The pace feels faster, not slower. Sometimes even frantic.

  • The break room and the people in it are enjoying each other’s company

  • There is a vibe of a game, kind of like a pickup basketball game where there is score being kept.

  • A feeling that people have each other’s back. Helping hands, positive vibes, small gestures.

  • Meetings: Tend to be lively. Debate. White boarding. Active discussion and listening. No feeling of dread…

  • If there are mantra’s on the wall, the oxygen level supports the mantra (it’s not just a slogan)

  • More doors are open than shut.

  • If there are NO doors and it’s an open environment, than the people actually look like they are happy it’s that way.

  • There’s a scoreboard of results. Somewhere, simple to understand. If it works for sports, it works for business too.

Businesses WITHOUT oxygen?

Basically are missing the above. In some cases, you can reverse each of the above and you have your business in desperate need of an OXYGEN INJECTION.

Business is no different than life. Oxygen is life sustaining to a culture. Make sure yours has an abundant supply.

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