The Chicken or the Egg? Exploring the Relationship Between Culture and Process

Catalina Bonavia | 18 March 2024

A man and a woman celebrating by doing high-five in an office setting. There is a laptop and some paper over the table and a brick wall behind

At the heart of every successful organisation lies a delicate dance between culture and process. Like two sides of the same coin, they influence and shape each other in profound ways. But for many people, the age-old question remains: does culture drive process, or does process drive culture?

Culture: The Heartbeat of an Organisation

Culture is the beating heart of any organisation. It encompasses the values, beliefs, and behaviours that define who we are and how we operate. From the way we communicate to the way we approach challenges, culture permeates every aspect of our work.

A strong culture fosters trust, collaboration, and innovation. It empowers employees to bring their authentic selves to work, fostering a sense of belonging and purpose. When culture is nurtured and cultivated, it becomes the foundation upon which great things are built.

A well-defined and nourished culture engages people and becomes the driving force behind achieving strategic objectives, regardless of what those objectives are. We hate to break it, but your culture makes or breaks your chances of achieving your strategy, and that’s why focusing on it is essential for the long-term sustainability of your organisation.

Process: The Backbone of Efficiency

On the other hand, process provides the structure and framework that keep our organisations running smoothly. From workflow procedures to project management protocols, process guides us through our daily tasks and ensures that things get done efficiently and effectively.

Well-defined processes promote consistency, accountability, and scalability. They streamline operations, minimise errors, and drive productivity. When processes are optimised and aligned with organisational goals, it feels like a well-oiled machine that enables people to get their stuff done, knowing what they need to do, what their playing field is, and where to go for support or guidance.

Similar to culture, processes can be the difference between a constant roadblock or driving on autopilot. When processes are well-defined, simple, efficient, and backed by the right systems, they enable the day-to-day operations of your organisation and, therefore, enable (or not) to deliver a great customer experience and achieve your goals and KPIs.

The Interplay Between Culture and Process

So, where does the relationship between culture and process begin? Some argue that culture comes first—that a strong culture naturally gives rise to effective processes that support and reinforce it. After all, when employees are aligned around shared values and goals, they are more likely to collaborate and follow established procedures.

On the flip side, others argue that process comes first—that by implementing efficient processes, we can shape and mould the culture of our organisations. By establishing clear expectations and providing the necessary tools and resources, we can influence behaviours and attitudes, ultimately shaping the culture we desire.

We think it’s a Symbiotic Relationship

In truth, the relationship between culture and process is not one of causation but of symbiosis. They are interdependent, each influencing and shaping the other in a continuous feedback loop. A strong culture can drive the adoption of effective processes, while well-defined processes can reinforce and strengthen culture.

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to nurture both culture and process, recognising their interconnectedness and importance. By fostering a culture of continuous improvement and innovation and implementing processes that support and reinforce our values, we can create organisations that are not only efficient and productive but also vibrant, resilient, and adaptable to change.

In the end, it’s not a question of whether culture drives process or process drives culture—it’s about recognising the power of their symbiotic relationship and harnessing it to drive success.

That is why at Three6, we bring human-centred design, process improvement, and strategy together – because one without the other is like trying to navigate a ship without a compass, lacking direction and leaving potential untapped.

Ready to transform your organisation? Let’s talk! Send us an email to and let’s get the ball rolling.