Last week we were looking at what organisational culture is and why we need to think about this. So for week 2 of our self-declared November Culture Change month, let’s look at whether we need to change our organisation’s culture…

Does my organisation’s culture need changing and why? 

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” (Charles Darwin, 1809-1882)
Superficially we can see the apparent infallibility of the strongest but that is not the only or most important factor in long-term success and growth. We can reflect on this when we are thinking about organisational culture. It is not by shouting the loudest, or being the strongest that we will be successful, but by responding flexibly to external and internal environmental factors and through such response emerge stronger and successful.
Culture is largely subliminal and is an often unconscious set of assumptions that define how we operate and also what behaviour is allowed; this intangibility can make understanding our organisational culture and any subsequent implementation of change challenging.

The cultural traits we should be aiming at within our organisations are:
stability – in terms of overall strategic vision and values;
flexibility and adaptability – so we can react to and cope with changes effectively.
The reason to evaluate and improve organisational culture is essentially linked to a desire to improve our performance and productivity – at the end of the day this is the measure of our overall success or failure.

How do I understand my existing organisational culture? 
Various tools can be employed to evaluate and understand current culture – examples include employee interviews and surveys through to observation of emotions and styles of internal/external communication. Management styles will enormously influence the development of culture and we should be aware of the natural human tendency for people to recruit people with similar values to themselves – this can reinforce existing cultural traits – potentially detrimental if managers are not aligned with the desired organisational culture.
The global research by Dr Daniel Denison during the 80’s and beyond looked at understanding how the performance of an organisation is linked to its culture. Four cultural traits were identified which significantly influence organisational performance – involvement, consistency, adaptability and mission.

The findings from from a company’s use of this organisational culture measure are displayed in a colourful and easily understood pie-shaped circle. Have a look here

Now let’s have a look into each area to understand a little more about how to understand your organisational culture…

Involvement is about building employees’ capability, ownership, and responsibility. This area reflects how much we focus on developing, informing, involving people and getting them engaged. So we need to think about empowerment, team orientation and capability development.

Consistency is to examine whether we have a strong and cohesive internal culture. Let’s look at our core values, how we work in terms of agreement (reconciling different opinions) and our internal coordination and integration.

Adaptability is focusing on an organisation’s ability of adapt quickly to the signals from the external environment, including customers and the marketplace. Are we afraid of taking risks to create change, are we customer focussed and do we create opportunities from interpreting environmental signals to develop our organisational learning and innovation?

Mission: Successful organisations have a clear sense of purpose that defines long-term directions. This helps us to identify whether we are in danger of shortsightedness or are equipped with systematically defined strategic and action plans. Vision, strategic direction and intent and our goals and objectives all need clear definition and purpose.

How do I change my organisational culture? 
So if we think that we have a good understanding of our organisational culture, let’s look at where we want to go next and accordingly define our strategic intent. Then we can look at how our culture may need to adapt to best support the strategic intent and so the success of the organisation.
Perhaps the two most important elements to driving organisational cultural change are executive support and training/involvement. It may be that people need to unlearn old values and behaviours to adopt new traits; to achieve this the leadership team needs to exhibit the new behaviours and so lead the change in order to demonstrate support, not just assert them ‘top-down’ communication. Training for employees is also useful to support both the effective communication of new or different expectations arising from the cultural changes as well as helping to provide a mechanism for teaching the new behaviours and involving people in a new model of engagement.

At Cerulean we aim to help people make a positive difference every day both within the workplace and personally. Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at some useful models for cultural change in organisations and some tips on what to do when your colleagues resist change.


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Imogen @ Cerulean