Written by: Robyn Marsh

In Conversation with David Liddle by Robyn Marsh

28 Jan 2022

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Robyn Marsh
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Events don’t quite happen like they used to. But that wasn’t going to stop us from celebrating the launch of our CEO and Founder David Liddle’s bestselling book, Transformational Culture. Our webinar was framed a little differently than usual – forget the slides and solo speeches. This was an invitation for conversation.

The story behind the book

Everyone’s talking about culture. From climate change to conflict resolution, fairness, justice and equality, it’s at the heart of the world we live in. And for David Liddle, it should be the same in our workplaces. His concept of a transformational culture is, in essence, trying to help organisations integrate and develop fair, just, inclusive, sustainable and high performing working cultures. What started as an altruistic idea soon blossomed into words on a page.

David uncovered many challenges that our managers, leaders, human resources professionals, unions and stakeholders face when creating these infrastructures. Significantly, the retributive nature of adversarial justice processes and systems, deeply entrenched within most businesses, were the antithesis of a compassionate and collaborative working culture that reflected the evolving, progressive model of our outer world.

Transformational Culture reframes justice. By weaving values and behaviours into a new rules-based system, balanced by positive and people-centric psychology, we can align our principles with our policies in a way that liberates and celebrates the diversity of our people.

From childhood fantasy to transformational culture

Imagine working in an organisation with a clearly defined purpose and a set of core values which connect us with our organisation, with one another, and with our customers. Where our leaders are committed to unlocking our inner brilliance and engaging with each of us as human beings – during the good times and the bad. Where each voice is heard, each contribution is valued, and our differences are a source of celebration.

Imagine a workplace where disputes and disagreements are resolved constructively, equitably and with empathy. Where managers feel confident and courageous to have the right conversations, with the right people at the right time. Where compassion is a sign of strength, dialogue is a foundation of justice, and collaboration is at the core of every team.

Imagine a workplace where the policies of the organisation shield us from harm and hold us to account but are equally concerned about protecting relationships and building an inclusive, collaborative, and humanising workplace.

Imagine working in an organisation where our managers value and nurture our happiness, our health, and our harmony. Where mistakes become opportunities to learn and grow, and where failure becomes a catalyst for insight and innovation.

Imagine our organisations thriving and growing, where boardroom executives listen and respond to the needs of our diverse stakeholders. Where investments can be made safe in the knowledge that our organisations will act responsibly and justly. Where profit and integrity go hand in hand, and where corruption, exploitation and abuse of power is challenged are resolved through fair, transparent and robust systems of governance and accountability.

Imagine all of this in a workplace which recognises it has a responsibility to our planet, and which works hard to protect the rich and diverse ecosystems within which we all live, play and work.

This is not a childhood fantasy. This is a transformational culture.

Talking with TCM


In a traditional organisation, as you’ve mentioned, there can be hierarchy, competition, and a tendency towards silo working. How can we overcome these barriers to create a transformational culture hub?

The focus on creating culture is very much about bringing together all the key players in the organisation working collaboratively together to agree to deliver a shared or common purpose. The starting point for that must be about defining what that purpose is. Secondly, it’s to define the core values that will help us to deliver that purpose. From this understanding, an organisation can develop their people and culture function. This team, alongside a Chief People Officer, will chair the transformational culture hub. An integral part of the role is to resolve any underlying issues around mistrust, breakdowns, or miscommunication that have historically prevented collaborative working between those key players. The hub must facilitate open conversations by actively listening, positively engaging and constructively receiving criticism.

The second part of it is about drawing evidence to support the development of the people and culture hub and, in turn, the transformational culture. What I would recommend for any organisation that is wanting to embark on a process of culture change is to ensure that the process is evidence-based so that they fully understand what the factors are that give rise to the culture as it stands. What’s the desired end state for the future? What do they want to be? What would they like to be achieving in the future? What’s the data that supports the need for change? In relation to HR processes, there might be absence data, attrition data, so on and so forth. That data can also be powerful in driving collaboration, as we can all unify to deliver the culture which actually resolves those issues.

Then, it’s about measuring and evaluating the impact of the culture hub and ensuring that it’s delivering against the strategic objectives, but that it’s also meeting the needs of the organisation, and constantly reviewing, evaluating and adapting. The transformational culture hub is constantly looking for those points of interaction and collaboration between key players to design the strategy, develop the evidence that underpins the strategy, and continue to evaluate the strategic direction of the organisation.

But to be transformational, do you have to do all those things and implement the entire methodology?

No, organisational culture is a journey rather than a destination. Organisations who are wanting to become transformational in their systems and processes don’t have to do everything at the same time. It’s about working towards the changes that you’re wanting to see implemented within the organisation. The first one is development of the values and behaviours framework, which then feeds into leadership and management capabilities, bringing those principles and processes into the line and into managers. If those behaviours are terse, destructive, hostile, misogynistic, discriminatory, negative, corrosive, then that shapes and creates the culture of an organisation. We all need to work together to support our leaders and managers to be better. They are the outcome, often of the systems that exist within our organisations. The first key point, then, to move towards becoming transformational, is to think about how we develop and support leaders and managers to be the best versions of themselves at all times within the organisation, particularly at times of stress and duress and crisis, because that’s the acid test for how our leaders and managers will behave.

The second most important thing to do is to rip up some of these corrosive HR processes by the roots. Nothing sends out a message more clearly to our people than to say that we’re going to significantly change the whole nature of our organisation’s policies and procedures to make them values-based and purpose-centred. These principles are still robust, they still create a safe environment, but they’re very different in terms of what your experience is going to be within the organisation.

We don’t have to do everything at the same time but there are things that can be done that demonstrate a clear commitment of the organisation towards this approach of this transformational principles.

You have to practice what you preach. And we’re all on this journey – we’re even implementing a transformational culture within The TCM Group.

It’s clear from news headlines about our politicians that we’ve become very fearful about not doing the right thing or not achieving perfection, and that requires then we retain the status quo. I think we need to be courageous and recognise that the world isn’t perfect but to improve, we need to try and challenge some of the norms and the paradigms and orthodoxies that exist in our organisations. It won’t always be an easy journey and we will make mistakes but the way to resolve that is to bring everyone together on that journey.

Embarking on a transformational culture gives us permission to make mistakes, to test ideas out and to be experimental. The opportunities that exist for innovation in our organisations are mind-boggling: the rise of digital technology, the shift in focus in terms of the relationships that we have with our society, with our communities, with our workplaces, hybrid working all present massive opportunities. As we come through Covid-19 into the new normal, there’s a chance for us all to start thinking about our culture, processes, systems, mechanisms, the way that we work, and the way we interact. If all we do is rely on the old systems and paradigms, they will fail.

You’ve spoken a lot about your ideas and concepts, but they’re not just ideas. They’re becoming reality, as we’ve started to implement this within various organisations. We’ve already got a couple of case studies, one for Canterbury Christ Church University and another for Saint-Gobain PAM. Can you talk about the process and experience of implementing this within organisations so far?

Under Transformational Culture, we’ve got a programme called Transformational Trailblazers which consists of various cohorts. Each organisation in a cohort is adopting the model that I speak out, which begins by undertaking a 5D Review. First is discovery: we understand what the organisation’s needs are, then we undertake a diagnostic. Based on the data that we’ve been given, we use appreciative inquiry. We look at what’s working well as well as what challenges we’re facing. From that, we can start to identify what the desire state is in the organisation from the current state. This involves a gap analysis of where they are now and where they want to go. Based on that gap analysis, we’ll start to design their bespoke culture change initiative. The final stage is deployment.

Questions from the audience

You can skip to 1:15:45 to listen to the discussion part of the webinar.

Meet the Author: In Conversation With David Liddle from The TCM Group on Vimeo.


The conversation demonstrated that some guiding principles must be put in place if an organisation is going to implement a fair, just, inclusive, sustainable and high performing culture:

  • Dialogue must have primacy
  • Evidence and data should be gathered to help build the business case and to support the design and the deployment of a transformational culture.
  • HR should evolve into an independent people and culture function.
  • A cross-functional Transformational Culture Hub should be stablished, with board-level authority to drive the necessary changes.
  • A new social contract should be adopted with unions, management and employees.
  • Transformational justice should replace the current retributive justice models, so clearly demonstrated through the traditional discipline, performance and grievance procedures.
  • The purpose and values of the organisation should be expressed through a clearly defined values and behaviours framework.
  • A Resolution Framework should be developed and integrated which provides a modern and legally compliant vehicle for the management and resolution of concerns, conduct, complaints and conflicts at work.
  • Leaders and managers should adopt the transformational principles.
  • Employee experience and customer experience should be fully integrated.
  • Sustainability and social justice should become embedded into the strategic narrative of our organisations.
  • Wellbeing, engagement and inclusion should be combined to form a single strategic focus.

It may appear daunting; it may look like a huge mountain to climb. However, it need not be. This is not a sprint, it is a marathon. The rewards will be great and the effort will be more than worth it – you will be a Transformational Trailblazer. The other option is to do nothing. In the current context, and with the challenges that the future holds, doing nothing is most definitely not an option.

If you’re interested in becoming a Transformational Trailblazer, please email our Strategic Lead Consultant Blair Maxwell here.

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