Organizational culture is imperative to your business strategy, yet many leaders often overlook it. Leaders tend to focus on the operations of the business and understanding the need of the customer and facilitating process improvement. While all of these activities are important, your culture is equally as crucial to the success of your business.
What is Organizational Culture?
Organizational culture is referred to as the way things are done in your organization. The unwritten rule of work and how work gets done which guides the way employees feel and the decisions that they make. Organizational culture is how employees think, what they feel, and what they do, consciously or unconsciously. Culture legend, Edgar Schein, states that “Culture is an abstraction, yet the forces that are created in social and organizational situations that derive from culture are powerful. If we don’t understand the operation of these forces we become victim of them.”
Why is Organizational Culture Important?
If you don’t have a pulse on your organizational culture, you become the victim of the culture. Culture allows you to set the stage and the direction of the organization. Your focus on culture as the leader will enable you to align your business strategy and influence culture. With your attention to your culture, you can ensure that employees embody the spirit of your values.
Let’s consider organizations some widely respectable organization that is operating in business today yet they are struggling with their culture. To the public these companies communicate and share their desired values of how they expect the organization to operate, however, their employees behave differently and demonstrate values and behaviors not aligned to their strategy. As a result, the disconnect between the leadership team and how work gets done in the organization significantly impacts their business performance.
We have recently seen where organizations desired culture was not aligned with the way employees work as demonstrated by companies like American Airlines to Starbucks, or LA Fitness. These companies have a strong brand presence, yet their culture, the unwritten rule of the way employees work, and which gets shared across the enterprise, conflicts with their business strategy.
Three Key Considerations to Develop Your Organizational Culture:
- Espoused values are what the leadership team communicates and the way the leaders want things to be done.
- The basic assumptions are the unconscious and processes that are followed without thought. We can all relate to this basic assumption when questioning the status quo. For example, you’ve identified a process that broken, it doesn’t make sense why the company continues to do this process, and when you question your employees why they are doing this process, they reply, its always been done this way.
- Observable artifacts are what employees can see and use. They are the value statements hanging around in your office and hallways. The technology you use. The way people dress at work, casual or suit and tie. The stories and rituals were developed over time.
When considering your culture or implementing a new initiative, you must think how all three elements will be impacted.
Let’s look at an organization which is implementing a new system infrastructure to make work simpler for employees. The organization must draft a change strategy which is inclusive of the culture and considers the organizations espoused value, understand the basic assumptions, and identify the observable artifacts. A plan must be implemented for each element to bring the organization along on your change initiatives and an idea on how to communicate, potentially using Everything DiSC profiles as a tool to describe the changes and identify the cultural impact on the workplace. Everything DiSC® profiles are used as a tool with your Managers to help them understand the dynamics of the team and how to create a strategy to implement the desired culture successfully.
Schein, E. (2004) Organizational Culture and Leadership, Third Edition