All Articles Leadership Inspiration Craft workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution

Craft workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution

4 min read


This post is part of the series “Workplace Morale,” a weeklong effort co-hosted by SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Leadership and the folks at Switch & ShiftKeep track of the series here and check out our daily e-mail newsletter, SmartBrief on Leadership. Don’t subscribe? Sign up.

Workplace inspiration doesn’t happen casually. It takes intentional effort to create and maintain a safe, inspiring work environment. The problem is that most leaders put greater thought and energy into their products and services than into their culture, yet culture drives everything that happens in their organizations.

Their culture wasn’t created intentionally — it happened by default. It may not be a healthy culture, but it’s there just the same. Culture is a powerful and (usually) invisible force in organizations.

How can leaders affect workplace culture? Leaders have to pay as much attention to citizenship and values as they do to results.

Leaders can change their culture by changing the rules. Making values as important as performance requires new rules, in the form of an organizational constitution. This document formalizes the team or company’s purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals.

Once the organizational constitution is formalized, leaders must 1) model the values and behaviors and 2) align all plans, decisions, and actions to those values and behaviors. An organizational constitution creates liberating rules for team or company members. Aligning to company values creates great company citizens. Great citizens enable their own great performance and that of their team members.

One amazing organization changed “in midstream” to build a values-aligned, high performing tribe. Its transformation is impressive.

Credit: WD-40 Co.

Garry Ridge is the president and CEO of the WD-40 Company. When he joined as the managing director of the Australian subsidiary in 1987, the company’s revenues were $80 million (U.S. dollars) with $60 million coming from U.S. sales.

In those days the company’s U.S.-centric mindset included a high “command and control” culture. Decisions were made autocratically in the U.S. from a U.S. point of view. Garry realized that if the company was to extend its brand globally, that mindset had to change.

When Garry was made CEO in 1997, he began implementing a culture change to a less siloed, less information hoarding work environment that trusted and respected its people.

“We needed a work environment that treasures learning and teaching, fairness, candor, dignity, respect, perseverance … and fun,” Garry said. WD-40 Company needed to eliminate the fear of failure in the hearts and minds of team leaders and members. Garry reframed failure into “learning moments,” where team members share insights so everyone can benefit from their learning.

Garry brought in Ken Blanchard to help the senior leadership team establish the values they wanted lived in the company, values to be demonstrated in daily interactions. Garry proposed a tribe metaphor, encouraging leaders to help employee to feel wanted at WD-40 Company, to help employees feel like they belonged there.

The tribal culture, based on desired values and behaviors, began to take hold. Early in his CEO tenure, Garry initiated an employee morale survey that continues on an every-other-year cycle today.

“Today, 93.7% of WD-40 Company employees say they are engaged,” he says.

In the most recent survey, WD-40 Company tribe members’ most favorable responses include:

  • I know what results are expected of me (98% favorable responses from tribe members)
  • My supervisor respects me (98% favorable)
  • Here at work, I am treated with dignity and respect (97% favorable)
  • Employees here “do the right thing” (97% favorable)
  • I have a clear understanding of how my work relates to the overall goals and objectives of the company (97% favorable).

The WD-40 Company is a $330 million global brand today, with 65% of sales from outside the U.S. Garry believes strongly that the company’s growth and success is entirely due to the tribal culture that values its people.

How can you craft a workplace built on high performance and values alignment? An organizational constitution can help evolve your workplace into a safe, inspiring environment.

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant with the Purposeful Culture Group and The Ken Blanchard Companies. Chris weekly blogs and podcasts are available at He is the author or co-author of six books including the best-seller “Leading At A Higher Level,” with Ken Blanchard. Edmonds’ upcoming book, “The Culture Engine,” provides step-by-step guidance for creating and aligning to an organizational constitution. It will be published by Wiley in September 2014.