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Jo Geraghty

Director

A first look at Organisational Culture

Date added: 24th Mar 2015
Category: Organisational Culture Change

Culture has been defined as “the way we do things” with the underlying assumption that the “things” are not just simple processes but the deeper personality which shapes business decisions and processes.

The first day in any new job can be a daunting prospect.  Luckily there is the ritual of the induction process to smooth the way.  One area which is unfortunately omitted from most induction processes is the culture of the organisation.  Although sometimes confused with the aim or ethos of a business, organisational culture is a very different being.  The aim of a business is essentially what the business sets out to do, for example make shoes.  The ethos of the business is how it will carry out its aims, for example only using organic leather or paying a fair price to its workers.  The culture of the business defines how employees work and interact, their modes of behaviour, values and attitudes.  Culture has been defined as “the way we do things” with the underlying assumption that the “things” are not just simple processes but the deeper personality which shapes business decisions and processes.

The organisational culture of a business can have a profound effect on every aspect of business including:

  • Employee loyalty, decision making and productivity
  • Customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • The perception of the business in the wider community

Whilst a deficient organisational culture can sometimes be temporarily masked by a good product, the long term effects can escalate into major problems for the organisation.  For example, in the 1950s British car manufacturing led the way but a decline caused partly by poor employee relations and organisational culture eventually led to the virtual death of the UK car industry, only for it to be reborn decades later.

Changing the culture of an organisation can be akin to changing the course of a super tanker.  It is a simple matter to give the order from the bridge but the tanker has covered a mile or more before the change takes effect. This is partly due to the extent to which the organisational culture is embedded throughout the entire organisation in both processes and attitudes and from board room to the most junior member of the team.

The culture of a business will have built up gradually from the first day that the business was conceived.  Every subsequent employee, whether manager or not, will have contributed in some small way to the culture that exists today.  Redefining the culture will require some adjustment on the part of every employee.

The simplest measure of whether an organisational culture change is required is that of a deep seated feeling that “something is wrong”.  Most managers and leaders will recognise this nagging worry some time before more obvious signs appear.  These can include:

  • A decrease in productivity leading to increased costs, wastage and falling profits
  • An increase in employee grumbles followed by increased sickness and staff turnover
  • A decrease in standards leading to an increase in customer complaints

There is no “one size fits all” solution for organisational culture.  Every business is different and every culture will be different.  However, there are some common best practices which will result in a successful realignment of the culture with the goals and aspirations of the organisation.  These start with the drive to change at the top, developing the vision and expanding it to structure a mission which will encompass people, actions and processes.

The success of an organisational realignment can be measured via:

  • Employee Engagement Levels
  • Customer client satisfaction
  • Productivity of employees
  • Profitability/turnover
  • Successes/goal vision achievement

Redefining the culture should not only rectify the slippages but set the organisation up to boldly march into the future with streamlined processes, greater understandings and renewed vigour.

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