A Simple Primer on Organizational Culture

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“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”   Peter Drucker

That mystical word, which according to Wikipedia is defined as:

Organizational culture is the behavior of humans who are part of an organization and the meanings that the people attach to their actions. Culture includes the organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors and assumptions that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving, and even thinking and feeling. Organizational culture affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders.

Old School translation?:  

What’s acceptable behavior & what is not.  All in the context of achieving business results.

There may be no better explanation of “culture” and its impact on acceptable human behavior than a classic scene from the hit comedy series FRIENDS.  Can you think of a closer group of friends than this crew?  It seemed like nothing was off limits for these guys & Gals.  Except when Chandler brought home something that happened in his office:  The Butt Slap, by the boss.  Yes, his boss gave his signature sign of approval on Chandler’s first day on the job.  And he was shocked.  Then his Friends were shocked.

Take a look.

There’s a catch here however.  This was NOT shocking behavior in Chandler’s office.  It was appropriate behavior.  Check that, it was TREASURED.

If this behavior is odd and off limits for this closest group of Friends, where anything goes, how could it be treasured in his office?  Simple.  CULTURE.

Here you will see how Culture makes the difference…..

An extreme example, YES.  But make no mistake:

Culture is a powerful force for deciding how people play together as they try and win the game.

Culture matters.  It can cause even the closest group of friends to look at an office (from the outside looking in) and proclaim what goes on is well, “CRAZY!”

Want to build a competitive advantage?

Then work hard on defining what you want your culture to be.  Build a culture in the context of the business goals and VALUES.

  • Get the VALUES (behaviors) on paper.
  • Celebrate when they are embraced and demonstrated.
  • Root out the cultural miss-fits if they can’t fit in after coaching.
  • Don’t hire a cultural miss-fit.
    • Get multiple people to weigh in before hiring.  Take your time.  Skills are easier to assess than Cultural fit, you need to see them over a series of conversations…..

When a “cultural fit” is not there, you are enduring ankle weights on the person, and more importantly, your business.

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