How much time and effort is involved in undertaking culture change?

Undertaking culture change isn’t simple. It’s a significant commitment for your organization to make. You’ll need to do the following:

  • identify at least one champion (not necessarily a senior manager) committed to moving the process along over several years
  • set up and support an active Culture Change Coalition (made up of staff from different disciplines, family, and older adults) that follows the principles of Authentic Partnerships
  • provide everyone in your organization regular opportunities to contribute to the culture change work

The Culture Change Toolkit

Your champion doesn’t have to be an expert in culture change. The PiDC Alliance Culture Change Toolkit is a step-by-step guide to the Appreciative Inquiry process. It includes downloadable handouts, fact sheets, group exercises, activities, worksheets, and other practical resources to support the work of your Culture Change Coalition. It can be accessed online at no cost.

Adapting the Toolkit to Your Needs

Our experience shows that organizations tend to adapt the toolkit to their needs. For instance, rather than work through the five phases of the Appreciative Inquiry process one after the other over an extended period of time, one organization chose to work through the Dawn, Discovery, and Dream phases in one large retreat (after collecting stories about what was working well). Customizing the process to your own circumstances is possible as well, so long as you honour the key principles of Authentic Partnerships and Appreciative Inquiry.

Additional Assistance

Beyond the toolkit, additional assistance is available from the PiDC Alliance. Research team members can help your organization better understand what’s involved in culture change before you embark on the process or provide coaching once you’ve begun. Contact us if you’re interested in further details. Depending upon the amount of support your organization is looking for, there may be a fee involved (which can be negotiated up front).

Culture Change Readiness Self-Assessment

Is your organization ready to begin a culture change initiative? Check through the following list of starting points to find out.

If you feel you’re coming up short in a particular area, don’t worry; we’re happy to help you figure out how to get ready. Simply contact us

Starting points for a culture change initiative not at all a bit partially mostly completely Why it’s important

Leaders are open to working in Authentic Partnership

Guiding principles

  1. genuine regard for self and others
  2. synergistic relationships
  3. focus on the process

Organizations committed to culture change consider the voices of all those involved in the care process including older adults, family members and staff at all levels and in all disciplines. They recognize that by working together, we are more than the sum of our parts. Research suggests that collaborative processes lead to better experiences and outcomes.

Leaders are interested in pursuing a relational model of living

(Relational models focus on living life to the fullest and embracing flexibility, self-determination, and a sense of community)

Culture change can be challenging because it asks everyone to consider shifting and disrupting assumptions about how and why the organization functions as it does. Leaders need to at least be open to a relational model of living in the initial stages. As culture change work proceeds, they’ll need to model behaviour that’s consistent with relational caring values. And they’ll need to support staff as they try news ways of caring.

Organizational leaders are willing to empower and support members of the culture change team (made up of staff, older adults and families)

In order for culture change to work, members of the culture change team have to be empowered to think and act in ways that challenge and build on traditional ways of operation while supporting a shared vision.

One or more culture change champions can be identified within the organization

Sometimes the people best positioned to lead change aren’t senior leaders. However, they may need coaching and support to be effective change champions.

Leaders are willing to break away from “traditional” top-down problem solving

When using traditional problem-solving, people often become focused on what is not working and may feel overwhelmed, insecure, powerless, or blamed. These feelings do not encourage individuals to take part in a large scale culture change process.

Leaders and team members are willing to commit to an appreciative inquiry approach, even if it’s outside their comfort zone

Appreciative Inquiry seeks to discover what it is that gives life to an organization when it is most successful and connected to its members and community. Building on the strengths of your organization can be energizing for everyone involved. It can help you undercover exciting, creative possibilities that may otherwise go undiscovered.

The shift to a relational model of living aligns (or can be aligned) with your organization’s strategic plan

Culture change is about visioning, identifying shared priorities, developing collaborative solutions, committing to realistic action plans, and carrying them out. When successful, it shapes your organization’s future direction and creates a deeper understanding of its reason for being.

Download this table as a pdf


Dupuis, S.L., McAiney, C.A., Fortune, D. B., Ploeg, J., & de Witt, L. (2014). Theoretical foundations guiding culture change: The work of the Partnerships in Dementia Care Alliance. Dementia Online First, January 13, 2014. Available from Sage Journals Online