Hello,
I’m Lise

I founded SPARK to help organizations be sustainable, healthy places contributing to a better world. Our economy has to shift towards a better mode of operating – where people and the planet are valued alongside being profitable. This “triple bottom line” social purpose is in my mind no matter what I do.

Most often, what I do is something to do with workplace culture.

Hello,
I’m Lise

I founded SPARK to help organizations be sustainable, healthy places contributing to a better world. Our economy has to shift towards a better mode of operating – where people and the planet are valued alongside being profitable. This “triple bottom line” social purpose is in my mind no matter what I do.

Most often, what I do is something to do with workplace culture.

Why Culture?

Organizational culture is “the way we do things around here”. It’s also everything that drives those habits: all the values, beliefs, and assumptions about what works and what doesn’t, what’s normal and what isn’t. Whether we’re trying to solve an issue that keeps “bouncing back” to the original state, working to become less risk-averse or more innovative, or striving to make CSR policy authentically embedded across the entire organization… we have to think about culture.

From the first moment I began working as a process consultant, I experienced this “deeper layer” driving many of the trickier issues I was helping with. But I was dissatisfied with the dominant approach to dealing with workplace culture. Some consultants talk about culture as something that can be radically changed in just five easy steps. Companies market their new survey or assessment tool as an effective way to understand culture, and offer simple models that promise to walk organizations through culture change processes relatively quickly.

Paul Bate calls this the “Paradigm of Simplicity”. Is this way of dealing with culture effective? When I ask people to reflect on whether this “simple” view of culture lines up with their own experiences with change efforts, they tell me it does not. People’s experiences line up with what the research tells us – John Kotter and others indicate that over 70% of serious change efforts fail. 

I have both practical experience and academic expertise in this area. From 2015-2017, I completed a Master’s degree in organizational anthropology in order to equip myself to work effectively with the concept. For my research project, I used ethnographic methods to make sense of the radical change in values and identity Mouvement Desjardins’ (Canada’s largest financial cooperative) has gone through from 2005 to 2016.

Today, I use my nuanced understanding of workplace culture to help organizations solve persistent problems, align strategy with people, understand why change efforts are being blocked, and bring values to life.

Formerly “Skills” >> now “Approach”

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Have you noticed the either/or mentality between “soft” and “hard” approaches to management consulting? Some believe the solution to any problem lies in participative “talk-focused” sessions. Others will tackle just about any issue with restructuring.

In fact, neither of these approaches are adequate when we’re talking about complex issues. Without addressing management styles, workplace processes, or values and beliefs (via participative sessions), restructuring efforts result in a draft back into original patterns. And without institutionalizing “soft” changes in “hard” design, things bounce back to the way they were.

I work with both hard and soft approaches, and collaborate with other expert partners as needed to ensure we provide thorough, sustainable interventions.

Ethnographic Research
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3-Level Culture Model
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Design Thinking
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Developmental Evaluation
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Reflective Practice Processes
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Participative Design Workshops
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Appreciative Inquiry
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Open Space Technology
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Align strategy with culture

Solve persistent problems

Understand people & patterns

Anchor values

Want to learn more about my experience and approach?

Education

2015 – 2017
Master of Arts, Organizational Anthropology
University of Auckland
2009 – 2011
Master of Arts, Human Systems Intervention
Concordia University

1997 – 2001

Bachelor of Arts (hons), Anthropology
University of Auckland

I’m constantly learning about new researched approaches to help organizations shift to the practices we need for a sustainable, healthy and democratic society.

Testimonials

When we embarked on a multi-year culture change project, we didn't really understand the scope of what we were doing until we brought in Lise. She helped us identify the essential aspects of our project and build our interventions accordingly. She saved us time, gave us deeper understanding of what was happening and made it all fun. I would highly recommend Lise to anyone looking for a consultant.

Andrew Woodall
Dean of Students at Concordia University

For years, Lise has been our go-to consultant to help us think through our more complex challenges. Her processes are participative and effective. She is a sharp, analytical consultant who is also personable and enjoyable to work with. I highly recommend her.

Irene Tschernomor
CEO, Queen Elizabeth Health Complex

Our growing national organization has truly benefitted from your incredible skills over the years Lise. Can’t thank you enough for the insights, facilitation skills, and knowledge you’ve shared, which have truly helped us to better manage our organization. Thank you again for your professionalism, flexibility, and kind, compassionate and inclusive approach.

Tonia Occhionero
Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Midwives

Lise has been instrumental in helping us define and clarify our project goals for our culture change initiative and has an attitude and work ethic that has motivated our team to continue with each next step. SARC has been lucky to have her as our guide in this project.

Jennifer Drummond
Coordinator of the Sexual Assault Resource Centre, Concordia University

The Community Learning Centres have steadily grown and Lise Palmer was instrumental to this growth over a span of more than 10 years. Her strength was making all partners collaborate and developing a sense of ownership that helped all of us move forward as one entity with a renewed sense of efficiency and accomplishment.

Paule Langevin
Former Director of the Community Learning Centres Network