Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

When the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation began to move toward a strategy requiring deep and sustained collaboration and cross-issue work, it was clear that the organization’s siloed culture needed to change. “Our culture might have worked for our old strategy, but it wasn’t going to work for the work we had to do going forward,” said Robin Mockenhaupt, RWJF’s chief of staff. She added, “When we went through our strategic planning process, we knew that we couldn’t get to the strategy without taking a look at our culture and how we do our work.” So RWJF did something unusual: it engaged a cross-section of staff, from all departments and levels of the organization, in a long-term conversation about culture. Vice President for Human Resources and Administration David Waldman pulled together a group of 40 staff members from across RWJF, including people who are often not consulted in planning conversations. This “Band of 40” began to consider changes in three priority areas identified by staff: culture, learning and bandwidth. This group came about as a direct consequence of the foundation’s strategic planning activities of 2013–2014.

Now that RWJF is beginning to implement its strategy, the Band of 40 has shifted its focus to very practical changes in rules, norms and behaviors that will help the staff be as effective as possible.

“As our strategy has evolved, sharing information across the organization has been critical,” said RWJF’s president and CEO, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. “Our effectiveness depends on connecting the dots by sharing information and tying it back to strategy and culture.” Focusing on culture allowed the organization to change internally at the same time that it was changing the way it worked externally. Mockenhaupt added: “We’re more in line with how we’re asking our partners and grantees to behave ... we’re collaborating!”