This week, we released Keeping Culture at the Center, Charter’s new actionable playbook for leaders on shaping workplace culture during times of economic uncertainty. One of the key themes that emerged during our reporting was the importance of defining your culture in a document employees can readily access, identifying both the values that guide how work gets done and the behaviors that undergird them. (The playbook’s first chapter goes into more depth on how to do this.)

What happens, though, when corporate belt-tightening forces you to change those behaviors? Jeff Wald, founder of the talent-management platform Workmarket and author of The End of Jobs, points to the example of being client-focused as a cultural value, which manifests as a policy of visiting each client once per quarter—until budget cuts hit. That’s when the in-person check-in morphs into a (less costly, and also less personal) Zoom call.

If you’ve done your culture document right, that in-person visit policy would have already been captured and codified as a way your organization lives up to its value of client focus. Leaving the policy in there means the document is no longer an accurate source of truth; taking it out without clear communication can cause confusion about whether the value itself is no longer important.

But your document should also be built to reflect reality, which means it’s more fluid than fixed—and by altering it as needed, you can ensure that when behaviors need to change, they can do so in a way that doesn’t affect the larger values they support.

“You have to think about it as a living breathing document,” Wald says. “It is going to change. And you should always challenge it.” Below are insights from our conversation with Wald for how to do just that.

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