Welcome to the Heller Consulting Homepage

With a strong academic foundation in organizational psychology and organizational development, over twenty years experience helping clients facilitate change, a passion for coaching, assessment, and development, and a keen interest in improving cross-cultural work relationships, I bring a rather unique perspective to your business. Please be sure to contact me if you have any questions or comments about my site. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Barbara Heller, Ph.D.

Intercultural Organization Assessment & Development

"If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."

Pretty standard words of wisdom. And relatively easy to do if you're talking about measuring output, throughput, profits, or productivity units. But is it really possible to measure "culture" - peoples' perceptions, feelings, values, and thoughts - in a scientific manner? For a global organization? And do we really have to manage all that differently just because the people we're working with are from a different country?


I started helping multinational organizations design and conduct customized (quantitative & qualitative) assessments of organization culture and customer relationships over twenty years ago. I facilitate organization development by basing improvement efforts on those assessment projects as well as by designing and facilitating training seminars on a variety of topics including cross-cultural communication, Strategic Human Resource Management, and teamwork. My passion is coaching: working one-on-one with people to identify obstacles to development and find positive solutions. I specialize in fostering cross-cultural understanding between my native country, the U.S.A., and my adopted home of Germany.

Helping you understand your current situation and manage positive change, one question at a time....

Customized Scientific Assessment of Organization Culture

"Do I have to really pay attention to something as amorphous as 'work culture' when implementing my strategy?"

Yes! One option is to understand your work culture, usually intuitively (as is often the case with small start-up organizations or with well-established family-type organizations), and then base your strategy on the strengths offered by your organization. Although this is often the method used in small organizations, it will paralyze most large organizations operating in a changing global marketplace.

Another route is to determine your strategy and then design the ideal work culture necessary to support it. A Strategic Human Resource Management function, for instance, will retrofit your work culture to meet the demands necessary to implement your strategy.

In any case, a strategy without a clear connection to your organization culture is simply words on a piece of paper or a passing vogue that will die a futile death.

"But what is 'organization culture'? Can we really measure it, much less manage it?"

Organization culture -- or work culture -- is the accumulative behaviors and attitudes of employees in an organization. Each of us has experienced working in a group which you could characterize as having a 'mood' or 'energy'. An organization's (socio-psychological) character is formed from the Gestalt of the energy of its various parts: its functions, departments, teams, executive management, various hierarchical levels, etc. Understanding an organization's culture means not only understanding the overall attitudes and behaviors of its population, but also understanding how attitudes and behaviors compare and contrast within and between the various component parts.

Measuring the current culture of an organization is relatively straightforward. Focus groups, interviews, questionnaires, and direct observations can are all valid tools for establishing 'as is' measures of a culture. Attitudes are most easily and directly assessed during interviews and focus groups; likewise, questionnaires lend themselves to the qualitative assessment of frequency of behaviors.

But having the tools isn't enough. A standardized, logical model by which the culture is measured is essential not only to the understanding but to the subsequent management of a work culture. The Purpose and Process Model of Organization Culture provides a logical basis for measuring and most importantly managing your work culture.

"How is the Heller Consulting way of assessing culture any different from all the other consulting companies out there?"

My philosophy about measuring organization cultures is "Back to BASICs": Assessments of work culture should always be Behavioral, Action-oriented, Strategic, Internal, and Comprehensive.

Also, I feel strongly that a world-class organization should have the internal competence to manage their own work culture. I work with organizations to help them build or improve their internal competencies, eliminating their reliance on external 'experts'.

Strategic Organization Development:
Changing Work Culture, Improving Working Relationships

"If you can't measure it, you can't manage it" is only half the story, though. Quantum physicists know that the very act of measuring something changes it; this is easily seen in organizations as well as in the natural sciences. The questions we ask employees about their work culture raise expectations and send important messages about the organization's values, mission, leadership, and strategy. Whether the effect is positive or negative depends on the way the questions are asked and what happens after the survey instruments are collected and analyzed.

The act of being measured has a tangible effect on your work culture. The measurement instrument itself can be one of your strongest strategic tools for bringing about the culture you need to excel.

Depending on your needs, there are several organization development paths I can travel with you:

Coaching: Individual, one-on-one sessions, designed to identify and remedy developmental opportunities. Coaching is a dynamic developmental experience. Coaching is not therapy, but rather a relationship-based developmental intervention similar to a mentoring relationship. Ideally, the coaching relationship serves the strategic imperatives of the organization while having ripple effects throughout a department, group, or function.

Organization structure: The results of an assessment of work culture often indicate the need to modify some aspect of an organization's structure. Unlike many other consulting firms, however, my guiding principle is always to make the smallest structural change possible, and to never make any change which would involve the termination of employees. The foundation of any working relationship is trust; any recommendations which would shatter that trust for members of the organization are by definition counter productive. At the same time, however, sometimes the most logical, necessary, and imperative change is the re-deployment of individuals within an organization. All too often, fear of reprisals or repercussions prevent anyone from pointing out the obvious: Joe or Sue need to be in a different role. My unique role as 'informed outsider' can often facilitate such redeployments in a way that is truly win-win.

Training: Most work culture or customer relationship assessment projects will reveal at least one training deficit within the 'Purpose' issues, such as communication, cross-cultural teamwork, leadership, etc. I have been designing and facilitating seminars for over 25 years on a wide variety of topics, including: International Teamwork, Inter-Cultural Communication, International Presentation Skills, Negotiating Ethically, Customer Relationships, Global Leadership Skills, Strategic Human Resource Management, Culture Shock USA, Facilitation Skills, Personnel Selection, Managing Feedback, and Creating Common Vision. Contact me for more information or a sample curriculum.

Project Facilitation: Leading an international project team is complicated, to say the least. Aside from the logistics (travel, video-conferencing, language barriers) and typical challenges associated with managing any domestic team, there are many issues that are unique to international teams: How do you 'transcribe' a project goal, process, or product so that it is meaningful in a different culture? How do you get people of various cultural backgrounds all to buy into the goals, roles, and procedures of a project, i.e., get them all 'into the boat'? How do you get the best results from a group that is extremely diverse? How do you find a common meeting ground with individuals from unique varied cultural perspectives? I bring a familiarity with a wide variety of cultures as well as depth of experience in working with teams to my role of project facilitator.