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When was the last time you went out into your organisation and checked to see how its culture and values were working in practice?
What is your company culture? I’m not asking you for a general description of company culture here; that company culture is the DNA of the organisation, the way things are done, the sum of the attitudes and ethos and approach. But I am asking about the culture of your organisation; can you articulate it, how does it feel working on the inside, and how does this affect your external relationships.
Actually, perhaps I’m asking the wrong question or the wrong person. Rather than asking you about your culture, perhaps my enquiry would be better directed towards your people and your customers and your suppliers and your investors. I wonder if I would get the same answer. I should do; but because we live in the real world, I suspect that I may not!
I appreciate that larger the organisation, the more likely you are to have an element of subculture running across different divisions or departments. In fact I would be very surprised if a global organisation did not have such subcultures to meet the needs of its varied client base. But even with subcultures in existence, there should be a core business culture which acts as a guiding hand across the organisation.
The danger of Culture Drift
With that in mind, I’ll ask again but I will rephrase my question very slightly. When was the last time you went out into your organisation and checked to see how its culture and values were working in practice? You see, unless you undertook a culture audit very recently then there’s every chance that, unless the company culture and values and employee engagement levels are very strong, there has been some drift.
I’m not going to go into every potential cause of drift here. If I did I would still be writing long after you organisation has reached the end of its lifespan; but what I will highlight is the fact that because organisational culture is made up of every action and interaction then as personnel change, as departments are reshuffled, as your customer or supplier base develops then your culture is influenced for good or bad. And don’t forget that people’s home lives and external market forces can also play their part in influencing your business culture.
So you may think that your culture is strong but you may not be aware of that employee who fails to respond to a customer query because they are distracted by a problem at home. You may believe that your employees are engaged in delivering the culture and values of the business but you may not fully appreciate the effect of that new team leader who is ruffling a few feathers.
Your company culture is an ongoing and ever changing organism which needs nurture and care if it is to deliver the strategy and values which you have mapped out. Undertaking regular culture assessments, carrying out a cultural audit of the business will help the leadership to understand how the culture is evolving and to rectify any problems. But more than that, organisational culture should be a prime task for leaders at every level of the organisation. Quite simply; your reputation, your profitability and your organisation’s longevity depend on the attention you pay to culture and values.