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Organizational Culture Is Not One-Size-Fits-All

Organizational Culture Is Not One-Size-Fits-All

It’s rare to find a company that has mastered the practice of shaping and maintaining a culture that suits them. Building the right culture takes time and thought, and frankly, there’s no single answer—it’s not a one-size-fits-all deal!

Written by:Tara A. Collison, Ph.D.

Corporate culture is widely discussed, but it’s rare to find a company that has mastered the practice of shaping and maintaining a culture that suits them. Don’t believe anyone who says it’s easy. Building the right culture takes time and thought, and frankly, there’s no simple answer. More importantly, there is no single answer—it’s not a one-size-fits-all deal! In order to establish a culture that works for you and your team, first you must understand what shapes your organic organizational culture. Only then can you identify any flaws and reinforce a culture that better fits your business and aligns with your strategy.

Understand Your Organizational Culture
Organizational culture, while difficult to define, refers to the culmination of beliefs, values, and principles of an organization’s members. It is determined not only by the experiences of individuals, but also by the organization’s history, management style, deliverables, and market. Culture moves beyond the work that a team accomplishes and instead highlights how the team accomplishes work.

MIT professor Edgar Schein says that organizational culture doesn’t shift overnight, and we believe that’s true. An organization’s culture forms over time with the influence of past experiences, external stimuli, and current changes. Schein describes three levels in an organization’s culture: artifacts, values, and assumed values.

Artifacts are the more tangible characteristics of an organization, including the mission and vision, employee behaviors, company processes, dress code, and facilities. Personal values make up another level of culture — What’s important to your people? How do they think? The final level is comprised of assumed values. Although they can’t be measured, these unspoken beliefs affect culture, and are understood by everyone in the company or in a specific department.

Identify the Flaws in Your Culture
Although it may be easy to acknowledge that something doesn’t feel right, it is much more difficult to identify the specific cause of poor company culture. A flawed culture begins when leaders emphasize and reinforce language and behaviors that contradict where your company needs to go. Let’s say your ultimate goal is to drive growth and innovation, but there is a “perfectionist” mindset driving your team. Your team will likely focus more on ensuring deliverables are exactly what they want them to be at the expense of getting them completed quickly enough to see growth.

This misalignment leads to other consequences. Your company could experience a loss of productivity due to low employee engagement. There’s also a higher rate of turnover at an organization with poor company culture. All of this impacts bottom line results, which puts your company at risk.

Before all else, you must understand what and where your culture is today. Ask yourself this: “What about our current culture is working?” Once you identify those attributes, amplify them! Then consider the instances where there isn’t a match between your goals and your culture—these are your opportunities for growth. Taking the initiative to change these elements could make a profound difference, so act on them. Create a systematic approach that you can commit to measuring. Until you measure progress, your plan is just words.

Address employees individually. If you have good talent (even great talent) that isn’t living in tandem with the values and culture you want, they need to adjust or move on to a place that is a better fit for them.

Reinforce a New Company Culture
Once you have a sense of what your culture should look like, reinforce the change. But how can you foster the growth necessary to make this shift possible? Here are a few things you can do as a leader:

  • Articulate the aspiration—make your company’s values known.
  • Create artifacts that represent your values.
  • Understand the intangible components of culture and actively manage them.
  • Select and develop top leaders within your organization who align with the target culture.
  • Reinforce the culture through organizational design and governance, ensuring that the structure you choose makes the most sense for your organization. For example, if you value all employees being able to contribute and have a voice, don’t implement a hierarchical structure where all the decisions are made at the top.

There isn’t one “right” answer. It differs depending on the type and maturity of the company, cycle of growth, and even function of the organization itself. Understand what is important to who you are both as an individual leader and as an organization. Culture is heavily influenced by leaders, whether or not you are conscious of it, so lead by example. When you see the behaviors that bring your desired culture to life, reward them.

Understand Your Corporate Culture with Meddlers
If your culture needs an overhaul or even just an opportunity to be fine-tuned, Meddlers can help. We believe that no company succeeds without great people, and keeping your team aligned and engaged is the ultimate key to success. Unlock your potential. Contact us today!

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