A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
"Who" an organization is, is as much or more important than "What" it does
What is organizational culture?
There are many ways to define organizational culture, but it can be briefly summarized as the set of values, norms, and practices that shape an organization’s behavior.
An organizational culture may also, less formally, be described as a story. It’s about how employees understand their work, what they believe in, and how they make decisions. The culture is reflected in the way employees behave at work and communicate with each other.
How is organizational culture manifested?
Organizational charts, culture maps, process flowcharts, time/motion charts, and swim lane are effective representations to make an organization “visible” from different perspectives. “A full culture map will look at both the operational and cultural sides of an organization” (Addison et al., 2009, p. 40). The “Day in the Life” method of describing an organization and its functions is heavily influenced by culture. Although the authors of Performance architecture: The art and science of improving organizations mention Joseph Campbell (1972, as cited in Addison et al., 2009, p. 48), they focused on storyboarding and neglected Campbell’s extensive work in the area of mythology and cultural beliefs.
Culture is a foundational, collective, qualitative construct, with quantitative performance consequences. It requires and deserves investigation as part of any serious holistic performance analysis or evaluation.
If you want to discover culture, listen to the stories people tell each other, and those they tell people on the outside. Do these stories consistently match what they say, do, and outwardly project? If not, how do they differ? If not, why do they differ? Form a framework for analysis, and start exploring.
Consider the following four observable elements of culture:
How does organizational culture affect performance and success?
Organizations are more than just their products and services – the most common quantitative measures of performance. They consist of employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders who all play a part in shaping the culture. Collectively, they define the qualitative value and effectiveness of an organization.
Internally, organizational culture is the way that people work together and behave in an organization. It is the glue that holds an organization together and helps it to succeed. A good internal organizational culture has three components:
- Shared beliefs- what employees believe about their company and its purpose
- Shared values- what employees value in themselves and each other
- Shared norms- what employees expect from one another
Organizational success is the resultant relationship with customers, investors, and other stakeholders. Success may be measured in terms of value, brand, customer service, and status as a trusted source of their products and/or services.
“When an organization’s cultural practices, the way we do things around here, are aligned and in harmony with its processes, then we see an increase in the performance coefficient” (Addison et al., 2009, p. 49). A strong organizational culture is the key to high performance. When employees are happy and feel a sense of belonging, their productivity and performance will improve. I will explore employee motivation in a future blog post.
Don Tosti’s (1993, as cited in Addison et al., 2009, Figure 3.8, p. 49) and Stephanie Jackson’s Organizational Alignment Model is a semi-circular flow model of strategy and culture elements linking mission/vision with results/value. Their theory matches a long-held observation and belief of this blog’s author; “The true effectiveness of any organization lies in the deliberate and mindful alignment of what it does (performance) with what it values and believes (mission)” (McCraw, 2020).
I used the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) presented in Cameron & Quinn’s book to complete the assessment showcased in my Portfolio.
Contact me for more information or to request a consult for your organization.
Organizational culture assessments should be objective processes. Internal, informal, or untrained efforts to reveal organizational culture may, at best, be incomplete. At worst, they may result in inaccurate and misleading information which will derail an otherwise sincere attempt to diagnose or correct performance deficiencies within an organization.
Hire a professional, either to conduct the assessment independently or to consult with while conducting the assessment internally. The application of evidence-based practices during a cultural assessment will ensure useful and revealing results.
Willing to explore your organization’s culture? I can help. Feel free to contact me to discuss your goals or concerns regarding your organization’s culture. Check out this example from my Portfolio. If I am unavaialable to assist, I’ll help you find a Human Performance Improvement (HPI) professional who can.
My tagline: Surpass Standards. Exceed Expectations.
My motto: Train with purpose. Lead with vision. Perform with excellence.
Works Cited or Consulted
Addison, R., Haig, C., & Kearny, L. (2009). Performance architecture: The art and science of improving organizations. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Cameron, K. S., & Quinn, R. E. (2011). Diagnosing and changing organizational culture (3rd ed.). [Kindle]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
McCraw, V. (2020, January 1). Green Knight Consulting. Green Knight Consulting. Retrieved February 6, 2021, from https://greenknight.llc/
Schein, E. H. (2017). Organizational culture and leadership (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.