Company culture. It’s always been there. But now everyone is really waking up to its importance in influencing business success. Which means there’s a mad scramble going on to take control. The trouble is, culture is an organic entity. You can’t just tell it what to do, any more than you can round up the neighbourhood’s cats at will. However, you can create conditions that entice it in the right direction. Which can be really effective.
As with any improvement effort, you won’t get very far if you start from a position of misinformation. At R&G we’ve been looking into the myths surrounding company culture which stop so many initiatives succeeding. Here’s the first of the five we unearthed:
Company Culture Myth #1: Of course we are aware of our own culture
Many organisations live with the belief that their existing culture is just fine and will perfectly facilitate their planned process and performance improvements. The fascinating thing, however, is that if you ask the board to describe what’s good about their company culture and why, they aren’t necessarily able to answer.
One of the reasons for this ignorance is that culture is typically determined and orchestrated by the HR department, who have a tendency to only direct it downwards through the organisation, thereby leaving the higher levels of management in the dark.
As a result, the board is completely unfamiliar with its own company’s culture. Which means they are clueless as to its compatibility with planned improvements and long-term strategy. This disconnection puts everything at risk. Not just in an operational sense, but also in terms of attracting and retaining employees.
And that’s not the only problem. If top management doesn’t know its own culture, how can it possibly demonstrate full support and commitment to the cause? How can the people who set the tone exhibit the same behaviours as expected from everyone else?
If a culture is to succeed in driving improvements, it has to be holistically integrated throughout the organisation, with everybody a part of it together. The board needs to be fully involved in the determining and implementation of the culture, to make sure it is aligned with the business strategy. This is the only way you create the right conditions for a great working environment, where everybody feels comfortable and thereby compelled to do the best job they can as part of a team. To realise the business impact your planned improvements are designed to achieve.
To effectively deliver business impact, culture has to be determined and practiced at board level
Ready for the next instalment?
Over the next few weeks, I’ll share the remaining four Company Culture myths we identified. If you don’t want to wait, you can read them all now by downloading R&G’s white paper:
Aart Willem de Wolf is Managing Partner at R&G Global Consultants in The Netherlands