Cultural Due Diligence

Cultural Due Diligence Tools – Tips and Traps

Your organization is merging with another or entering into a joint venture. Or maybe your company wants to improve its effectiveness, perhaps reduce costs or streamline business processes through conscious efforts to change the culture. For whatever reason, your company has made the decision to conduct a cultural due diligence. How do you proceed?

Companies can either choose off-the-shelf tools or develop their own. In this article, I’ll highlight some specific approaches for creating your own tools. Five tools often used to do a comprehensive culture audit:


  1. Culture Survey
  2. Archival Information Checklist
  3. Culture Observation Inventory
  4. Structured Interviews Instrument
  5. Focus Group Instrument (utilizing targeted questions from the interview instrument)


I’ll talk about a couple of tools in this post and the remaining tools in subsequent posts. The “Cultural Observation Inventory” is simply put an organized, structured way to conduct a physical observation of the organization’s culture – a field study of the culture. The basic assumption is that there are visible signs in the physical environment that will give hints about the organization and lead to follow up questions   For example, are all the office doors closed or open? Are appointments kept on a timely basis? Do meetings start on time? How close are the cubes? Rather than make immediate judgments about the organization’s culture, these observations would generate questions I would want to ask.

. With a little research and planning, a team can create their own Observation Inventory. The focus should be on a comprehensive list of characteristics to watch for in the physical environment and observations about the employees. The best tools force the team members to distinguish between their actual observations and their interpretations. People who have used similar types of tools talk about becoming aware of aspects of the environment that they had previously taken for granted and uncovering some of their own assumptions about the organization as they learn to discriminate between their observations and their interpretations.   As an aside, these types of observations can also be helpful for job seekers – especially when given the opportunity to ask follow-up questions.

The ‘Archival Informational Checklist” is a fancy term to highlight the method of reviewing all the pertinent written materials in an organization to gain clues about the organization. Again, the team can create a list of all the documentation they’d like to review and gather the information, making notes about their interpretations. An additional assumption is that if there is an absence of specific kinds of data, such as no employee handbooks or no budgets for training and development, these absences provide other indicators about the organization’s culture.

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