It is often said that culture is driven from the top.  But while leadership can imprint virtues and shape the culture of an organization, the measurement of culture must occur within and throughout the various organizational layers. If it’s real, you see it among the troops.

This is Mitch Viau, Project Manager Backwoods Energy.  One day, while working on a site directly across from the main Alexis reserve, Mitch had an idea. Why not give the young (and not so young) band members a firsthand experience of Backwoods machinery?

So, one Saturday morning, the team mobilized a rock truck, excavators, loaders, skid steers and other pieces of equipment and staged them around them around the site.  Kids young and old lined up, smiles on their faces, to ride in the trucks and run the mini hoe and skid steer. Even a few elders joined in! The Backwoods Equipment Rodeo was born.

It was a fun event and important for two reasons. First, it was an opportunity for band members to interact directly with Backwoods machinery and people. Close community ties are critical to our mission and so much of who we are. Getting people together for events like this, matters.

Second, it showcased what culture is about: it’s lived.

Companies often spend thousands of dollars on cultural surveys and studies in their organizations. They pay big bucks and invest hundreds of hours perfecting the “value” words that will go on some placard on the wall. And while these initiatives are not without merit, in many cases the best indicators of culture are not in the responses given by people in surveys but in their daily actions. What they do.

In this case, Mitch saw an opportunity to live the mission of Backwoods. He floated the idea up the chain of command and got enthusiastic approval to make it happen. The entire Backwoods team then got together to get the event done. The rest is equipment rodeo history.

Culture isn’t what is spoken from up top — it is in the actions and attitudes that permeate throughout an organization. Measuring it well comes down to observing direct ground behaviour. What’s real is what happens (when no one is looking) among the troops.