…across industries, organization size and location the question, “what is your company culture?”. The responses are often the same. First, silence. Then, an uncertain listing of culture related attributes that come to mind, such as ‘collaborative’, ‘team’ and ‘professional’. Every once in a while, the team declares, “We don’t really have a company culture”. The first time a leader made that statement to me it really caused me to pause and think for a moment. Is it possible for an organization to not have a culture? No, every organization has a culture. It’s just that some are taking action to influence the culture and others are just letting the culture “happen” on its own.
So, let’s explore what a company culture is. Cutlure is a set of values that drive behaviors of those in the organization. To be most effective, the organization’s culture should be well aligned with the mission, vision and goals. While there are some factors that will change a company culture unintentionally, such as change in staff, regulations and economic changes, if a company culture is strong, the change is unlikely to be significant. How can you build a strong culture? Be intentional!
Start by determining what the culture is. How can you tell? Look and listen. How do people behave? What do they say? What stories are they telling? Are they smiling? Do they often exceed others’ expectations? Are they passionate about the organization’s mission?
Once you know what the culture is, determine what you want it to be. Employees should have input too. There is not such a thing as a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ culture. Each organization culture is unique, so don’t simply choose what some other organization is doing. Find out what employees want, make sure it’s aligned with the mission, vision and goals, and then you are ready to take action.
Taking action means attacking the gap between the current culture reality and the desired culture. Figure out where the gap(s) is/are and create a plan. Then, you will be ready to assess the culture again and repeat. This is an important note. Assessing the culture and filling gaps is not a one-time ordeal. It’s ongoing. For the lifetime of the organization!