How Your Values Can Lead To Your Organization’s Success (pt. 2 – Culture)
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast, organizational excellence for lunch, and everything else for dinner.” – Peter Drucker
The dictionary defines culture as “The predominating attitudes and behaviors that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.” It also defines corporate culture as “The philosophy, values, behavior, dress codes, etc., that together constitute the unique style and policies of a company.” Let’s cut through all the wordy definitions and say that culture is “the way we do things around here.” Culture also defines the organization’s view of the “right thing to do” (it’s priorities).
In part 1 of this blog series, I wrote that the success of an organization begins with the values that it’s built upon. It’s critical that these values are the foundation upon which its culture is placed. A successful organization’s values should rarely, if ever, change. However, it’s culture will change over time due to many variables such as customer demands, technology, etc.
Even though there should be an overarching organizational culture based on its values, quite often you will find sub-cultures within it. These sub-cultures are often found within the various departments of larger organizations. They stem from things like the nature of the work that the department does. This is not only acceptable, it’s usually necessary for these departments to succeed. For example, the culture of a company’s manufacturing facility is probably different from that of its accounting department. “The way they do things” is different. However, the organization will experience the most success if all its departments (even though they have different sub-cultures) understand and adhere to its values.
Cultures exist in every organization. Some of them are by default. In these cultures, people just show up and do what they think is right. No direction is given as to what the “right thing to do” is. This lack of direction can create a chaotic, inconsistent environment where a lot of conflict and blame exists. Other cultures are formally defined. They are quite often written down in places where all people in the organization can see them. In these cultures, everyone knows what’s expected of them and the environment is consistent. People know what to expect from their employer and their co-workers every day. Decision making is also easier in these organizations because employees know its priorities.
In addition to being by design or default, cultures are also positive or negative. The explanation of this can take a long time, so let’s make it simple. Positive cultures are found in organizations that make commitments to their people and live up to them. Negative cultures are found in organizations that either don’t make commitments to their people at all or, if they do, don’t follow through on them. Whether a culture is positive or negative, it has a direct impact on things like employee engagement, turnover rates, morale, levels of gossip, workplace politics, etc.
Culture is a word that is often misunderstood and quite often used as a scapegoat within under-performing organizations. In these organizations, its leadership says that the employees “don’t understand our culture and they don’t live it out”. Its employees say that “our leadership doesn’t know what’s going on” or “this isn’t the same culture we used to have around here.” In reality, both parties could be correct. The problem is that one or both of them has lost sight of the values that the organization was built on in the first place (if they even existed). This frequently happens in default, negative cultures.
In high performance organizations, everyone understands its values, the way they do things, and the criteria that is used to make decisions. If an employee strays from this, they either catch themselves and adjust, or their co-workers and/or leadership will confront the behavior. This usually occurs in designed, positive cultures.
In part 1 of this blog series, I wrote that its four parts would go in progression, from values to success. At the end of this second post in the series, we can conclude that values define an organization’s culture. In my next post, I’ll explain how people that live out their organization’s culture can help define, advance, and actually become representatives of its brand. If you’re interested in taking a look at your organization’s culture, please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d love to talk with you!