“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?”

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Has your organisational culture evolved or have you cultivated it?

The problem surrounding culture in a lot of organisations is that senior leaders set the culture and define the organisation’s values, these often end up on a wall for everyone to see and it is assumed the culture and values are implemented.  However, the reality can sometimes be that the shared beliefs, behaviours and assumptions of what the culture and values really mean are different in the eyes of employees.

Over the next few weeks we are going to pose a few questions to unpack why this occurs.  These will include
1.            Do you (senior managers) understand the true culture and the lived values?

2.            Have you or your organisation identified the culture that you really want (Have you asked yourself “where do we really want your organisational culture to be”?)

3.            Have you considered how to build a sustainable organisational culture (processes)

4.            What is the best way to monitor and review your culture to ensure you maintain where you want to be.

So why do organisations get this so wrong?  To start with, let’s look at what organisational culture is.

Organisational culture can be defined as a unique set of shared beliefs, assumptions, values and norms that shape the socialisations, representations, language and practices of a group of people.  This is the mantra that employees use to guide behaviour and actions.  Culture is therefore refined and conveyed by employees, consciously and unconsciously now and into the future.

Elements of culture can be typified using this Iceberg model.  What you can see every day is classified as the artefacts or tangible elements such as physical structures, the language the organisation uses to function and sell its services, the rituals such as the way it positions itself and how its customers recognise it.  These are the vision, mission, purpose, goals and strategic objectives of the organisation.

However, it’s the intangible elements below the waterline that represent the reality of your organisations culture.  Things like shared values and shared assumptions, do they match what is above the line when leaders are not around, or does it change into something less desirable.  Other areas that sit below the waterline include office politics and old ways of doing things that all have an impact on the intended organisations culture.

The challenge for leaders is to work towards a match between the intended culture above the water line and what happens day to day under the waterline.  And this is what we will be looking at in more detail over the next few weeks.

Ask yourself these questions, do you understand the reality of your organisation’s culture and its lived values and is it a true representation of your business?

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