This article provides a summary of organizational culture, how it’s formed, and therefore the practical actions which will be taken to know and shape it. The prevailing culture of a corporation features a major impact on its ability to react to changes in the economic process, develop innovative new services and products, or adopt more efficient practices and processes. we’ve written this paper for managers within a good range of organizations who are trying to find practical advice and knowledge to assist them to create an environment that will enable them to successfully adopt improvement methodologies like Lean, Six Sigma, and Continuous Improvement.
A Definition of Organisational Culture
An organization’s culture comprises all of the values, beliefs, assumptions, principles, myths, legends, and norms that outline how individuals and groups of individuals think, make decisions, and perform. The MIT Professor Edgar Schein, who is credited with inventing the term “Corporate Culture”, wrote in his book Organizational Culture & Leadership (2nd Edition, 1992, Jossey-Bass) that culture was “a basic set of assumptions that defines what we concentrate to, what things mean and the way to react emotionally to what’s happening .”
Schein went on to state that an organization’s culture also will define what actions are taken in reaction to varied situations. Schein’s definition clearly shows that a manager who wishes to implement radical changes from the ‘norm’ must understand, influence, and ultimately change the prevailing culture.
Another popular definition of culture is that it simply defines, “The way we do things around here.” This simplistic definition describes the truth of how an organization’s culture manifests itself within the sort of behaviors and therefore the thought patterns of people and groups. This collective set of behaviors also affects the strategy, objectives, and day to day operation of organizations.
Putting this in simple terms, organizational culture will impact positively or negatively on everything you are trying to try to do whether you would like it to or not.
The culture of a corporation is learned over time. It is often taught to new employees through formal training programs but is more generally absorbed through stories, myths, rituals, and shared behaviors within teams. The culture of a corporation is defined by five aspects;
These describe how individuals assess certain qualities, activities, or behaviors nearly as good or bad and are supported by how a private, or a gaggle of people, perceive the organization they work for.
These reflect a person’s understanding of the way their team and organization work and therefore the probable consequences of any actions they take. for instance, in some organizations, people adhere rigidly to rules because that’s how they believe you get ahead, or people resist taking risks because they believe that ‘risk minimization’ is that the thanks to managing a process. What an individual believes directly affects how they behave.
These are the persistent stories or legends that provide clues or signals about the behaviors that are expected of team members. Myths have often supported a mixture of truth and fiction and become embellished over time.
These are repetitive significant events that include such things as parties, social events, celebrations, and similar activities that are a basic way of perpetuating cultural values. Traditions highlight to groups what are held in high esteem by the organization.
These are the informal rules that outline the day-to-day work of people, like code, work habits, work/life balance, communication styles, and gossip. Norms are rarely if ever, written down and are tacitly accepted by people because of the ‘way things are.
Edgar Schein described how the five aspects of culture described above manifest themselves at three levels within a corporation.
– Level 1 – Shared Basic Assumptions
The lowest of the three levels described by Edgar Schein concerns invisible, unconscious, and taken-for-granted assumptions held by individuals. they’re often so well integrated into a team’s dynamic that they’re hard to acknowledge from within.
Shaping What you would like
Within this section, we’d like to think about the difference between an organization’s culture and its climate. we will compare this difference by using an everyday analogy with an individual’s personality and mood. Someone’s personality is enduring and difficult to vary whilst their mood may change repeatedly during the day. Culture during this analogy is that the organizational personality, whilst climate is that the organizational mood.
The organizational climate also can be described by the phrase, “the environment created in a corporation to develop and support a performance-enhancing culture.” This definition shows how climatic factors are often changed to shape organizational culture.
One further analogy that gives insight into the difference between climate and culture, and the way climate affects culture is shown below.
We want a flower that’s strong, colorful, and formed correctly. The flower represents the organizational culture we are looking to ‘grow’. To enable us to grow this beautiful flower we’d like to supply the seed with several climatic factors like light, heat, water, food, nutrients, and so on. If we offer the seed with the proper climatic factors within the right quantities then we’ll get a robust flower that closely matches what we were expecting. However, if we deprive it of something it needs or provide it with an excessive amount of something (for example water) then we run the danger of killing the plant or at the best creating something that doesn’t meet our expectations.
Fundamentally, a change of culture occurs when people start behaving differently as a result of a change within the climate of the organization.
There are many various models of how organizational culture is formed by the prevailing climate. during this article, I even have selected to specialize in the work of Professor Goran Ekvall. Ekvall was a Swedish professor of organizational psychology who spent a few years investigating organizational climatic factors and the way they affected the power of organizations to be creative and adopt new ways methods and processes.
Ekvall identified 10 climatic ‘dimensions’ that would be assessed and wont to define the extent of creativity, flexibility, and skill to adopt change within organizations. These dimensions are described below.
How challenged, emotionally involved, and committed are employees to their work?
How free are your staff to make a decision on the way to design their work? this is often different from people not being managed as they’re expected to figure toward the objectives of the organization.
– Idea Time
Is time allowed for people to think about alternative ways of working?
Is there positive energy within the organization? this is often different from chaos, highly stressed, or energetic environments where there are tons of ‘running around’ but little positivity about the work.
Are there resources available to enable staff to offer new ideas a try? Are people supported by their managers once they make decisions or when things happen?
Do people feel safe speaking their minds and offering different points of view? Is there trust between team members and between staff and managers?
How relaxed is that in the workplace and is it okay to possess fun (in a knowledgeable or business-like context)?
To what degree do people engage in interpersonal conflict or ‘warfare’?
To what degree do people engage in lively debates about the issues? is that the debate of a subject encouraged or avoided?
Is it okay to fail? this is often different from negligence and describes the attitude toward employees who try new things (intending to enhance performance) that they are doing not work needless to say.
Each dimension defined by Ekvall exists on a scale that extends from ‘Supports Improvement’ to ‘Undermines Improvement’. for instance, Risk-Taking would tend a score of minus ten if whenever someone tried to try to do something that didn’t fit within the ‘norm’ they were punished, whether or not the result was successful, to a score of plus ten for one where time and resources are allocated to enable people to proactively take risks and whether or not they figured out would contribute to organizational learning. Organizations normally exist between these two extremes on all 10 dimensions.
Climatic factors (or dimensions) are successively primarily suffering from the leadership environment also as, to a lesser degree, secondary factors like the systems and processes within the organization, physical working space, design of processes, equipment, etc.
The leadership environment is described by such things as;
What leaders concentrate too, measure and control
How leaders react to critical incidents
How resources are allocated by leaders
The role played by leaders in modeling effective behaviors and training others
How rewards and standing are allocated
Recruitment, selection, promotion, and exit policies and practices
Effective leadership can often be related to the concept of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ as popularized by Daniel Goleman. Emotional Intelligence, or EI, is that the ability to spot, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and groups. There are several competing models of EI. For simplicity I even have continued with Goleman’s description of the competencies that are displayed by an Emotionally Intelligent Manager;
The ability to read your own emotions and recognizing them once they are negatively affecting performance and when ‘gut instinct’ is often wont to guide decisions.
This is the power to regulate your emotional responses, avoiding impulsive behaviors. Self-regulation allows you to adapt to changing circumstances appropriately.
The ability to sense, understand, and react appropriately to the emotions of others.
– Social Skills
This is the power to speak with people, inspire them, influence them, and effectively manage conflict.
This last topic is that the ability to stay outwardly motivated even when struggling, tired, or faced with complex challenges.
The more senior an individual is, the more important it’s that they need to master and understand emotional intelligence.
What this section has highlighted is that the Emotional Intelligence of Leaders in the least levels affects the climatic factors within teams and organizations. In turn, these climatic factors (or dimensions) shape and form the culture of a corporation over a period of your time.
Later during this document, I will be able to outline some practical actions which will be taken to know, design, and move toward a culture of continuous improvement. However, before then I even have provided a light-hearted anecdote that shows how organizational culture is made and transmitted from person to person.
Monkey Business: A Cultural Anecdote
The following may be a light-hearted check-out of how team cultures form. Of course, any experiment undertaken within the manner described below would be cruel, but as an easy explanation of how culture forms we hope you’ll indulge me.
There were three monkeys during a cage in a zoo. Hanging from the roof of the cage was a bunch of bananas beneath which was a ladder to enable the monkeys to climb up and reach the bananas. one among the monkeys saw the juicy treat and decided to climb the ladder to urge them.
As soon as his foot touched the ladder, the remaining two monkeys were sprayed with water from high hoses. Having retrieved and eaten his first banana the primary monkey visited climb the ladder again and immediately his fellow monkeys were again drenched. At this point the 2 soaked monkeys grab their colleague as he was climbing the ladder and pulled him to the bottom before he could get another banana.
It didn’t take long before all three monkeys learned to remain far away from the ladder to avoid the wrath of their comrades caused by the associated drenching. Unbeknown to the monkeys, the high hoses were then turned off but because the monkey’s not gone near the ladder they didn’t realize this.
The following day a fourth monkey is introduced to the group. This new monkey is totally unaware of the problems the opposite three have experienced so when he sees the bananas he goes climbing the ladder. Before he gets anywhere near it though all of the opposite three monkeys attack him. Having experienced this aggressive behavior the new monkey also quickly learns to not go near the ladder.
Time goes by again and a fifth monkey is introduced. As this new monkey goes climbing the ladder all four monkeys attack him, including the fourth monkey who hasn’t experienced the ‘drenching’ and is simply reacting to the ‘way things are done around here:
In effect, the monkeys have formed a replacement set of cultural behaviors albeit a number of the group haven’t any idea why things are done the way they’re.
In the next section, I will be able to explore some practical actions which will be undertaken to assist understand and shape your organizational culture and move toward a culture of continuous improvement.
Preparing for Continuous Improvement
In this section, I even have highlighted eight practical actions which will be taken to develop a culture of continuous improvement.
– Become conscious of your current culture
You should start to note your existing culture today, now, immediately. hear how people express themselves and therefore the stories they tell about successes and failures. concentrate on shared values and watch how teams behave. Over a couple of days, this may offer you an honest pity your ‘cultural current state’. Remember, whatever you’ll believe, you’re a part of a team with a gaggle of norms and behaviors that you simply might not even realize exist unless you undertake this activity.
– Assess your cultural “current state”
There is a requirement to spot the cultural aspects you would like to retain from your current culture, for instance, a performance culture focused on achieving operational targets or a service culture focused on providing exceptional customer service. you’ll also get to identify the items that require travel, for instance, a ‘norm’ of not sharing performance data or covering up questions of safety. Lastly, you’ll be got to identify the items that are missing, for instance ‘individual accountability or the necessity to require more risks in developing new products and services.
– Create a cultural “future state”
Imagine your ideal culture. Write it down in the maximum amount of detail as possible. Group the varied elements you come up with into common attributes then fine-tune it with colleagues until you’ve got a transparent picture of what you would like from your organizational culture within the future.
– Share the vision
Communicate openly, frequently, and consistently. Describe your cultural vision in letters, emails, briefings and put it on notice boards, in newsletters, and everywhere else you’ll. don’t be afraid that you simply will ‘over-communicate your vision because you cannot.
– Align your leaders
This is a requirement for leaders to try to quite just agree about the long-term state. Alignment is about leaders in the least levels ‘living the cultural future state’ for the organization. You and your fellow leaders should constantly be working together to find out, reflect, and develop one another to enable you to support your new culture. you would like leaders who can model the culture you’re looking to make. If they can not or won’t then you’ll get to change them.
– Treat culture as a strategic issue
Culture could also be perceived as ‘pink and fluffy but it’s a true impact on organizational performance. Changing a culture can change the fortunes of the whole organization and is therefore a senior management team issue and will be discussed regularly at management meetings.
– Knockdown cultural barriers
Many of your structures, policies, procedures, and processes will negatively affect your ability to succeed in your organizational’ future state’ and you would like to possess an idea to tackle these barriers. Make your staff conscious of your plans and therefore the values of your organization as often as you’ll.
– Keep it real and up so far
Culture can take an extended time to vary. Celebrating every success along the way has the effect of keeping things real during this point, also reinforcing the behaviors you would like within the future. you’ll also get to keep your cultural future state up so far supported any changes in your organization’s market or operating environment.