Riding a cultural wave of change to corporate success
The word culture dates back as far as the 15th century, and is derived from the Latin ‘cultura’ which meant ‘tending, caring, cultivation of the mind or body through education or training.’
It is not far away from the true meaning of culture today, which is to define what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. And, in the workplace, that is as critical to business success as the quality of products or services that characterise any organisation.
Culture is the way people think, what they value, how they act and how they feel and, although it may be difficult to see, feel or describe, it pervades everything we do, everything we say and every decision we make. It may be something that ‘acts out’ its role in the background, but it is always there.
Most winning companies have successfully conquered the wall of understanding around the developing of company vision and goals – both of which are important ingredients in the business mix. But, like all theory, the value of such business tools can be dulled significantly by lack of active use – that is putting them into action in a way that encourages staff understanding, buy-in and support and, ultimately, enhances performance at all levels.
Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” — Japanese Proverb
Corporate culture is made up of four key components:
- The processes or ‘operating systems’ used to conduct your business and assumptions about how things work;
- How responsibilities are allocated;
- How complaints are handled;
- What is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour – and how each is managed.
It is rooted in the common values, patterns of behaviour and moral standards shared by an organisation’s leaders as well as its staff, and thrives on stable, focused and motivational leadership. Where that becomes fragmented or inconsistent, where departments sink into faction groups, and where gaps emerge between an organisation’s purpose and its operational structures, corporate culture can fade into disharmony and disrepair.
Asking yourself just a few questions is a good starting point for clarifying the corporate culture of your company:
- What 10 words would you use to describe your organisation?
- What is really important to you?
- What behaviour gets rewarded – and how is unacceptable behaviour managed?
- Who fits in– and who doesn’t?
Comparing your own answers to those of your employees, will paint a clear picture of what kind of culture thrives within the ‘four walls’ of your business…. and will highlight any warning signals that something is wrong.
The main obstacles to effective corporate culture are low morale, poor or non-existent communications between different levels of the company, a perception of ‘seesaw shifts’ in management’s culture or priorities, and inconsistent, unstable or uncompromising leadership.
Cultural change may also be needed to address not failings in existing processes and behaviours, but to respond effectively to economic, environmental or financial demands that may identify, create or threaten business markets. Business, like any other organism, must be able to adapt to its environment if it is to survive. To quote Darwin: “It is not necessarily the strongest or the most intelligent who survive, but those that can adapt to change.”
The good news is that corporate culture can be changed, if the fundamental need for change is clear and, while such change needs, in any case, to be managed carefully, step-by-step, and can be time-consuming, costly and even controversial, it will also inspire a newly confident, creative, inspired and motivated workforce that takes ‘ownership’ of the company goals and vision, and whose new-found values will help drive forward your future business success.
If you want more information about reviewing or addressing corporate culture issues within your company, contact us at Cherryblue on 01656 649227 for an informal chat.