Blogs

Jo Geraghty

Director

Culture Assessments

Date added: 23rd Mar 2016
Category: Organisational Culture Change

When we set out to review and revise our organisational culture, when new projects or mergers or reorganisations are in the pipeline then our chance of success will be considerably enhanced if we first take time to find out is actually going on.

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? You’ve probably heard this philosophical question before, but it is one which can give rise to endless debate about truth and observation and perceptions of reality. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a brainteaser? In these days of multimedia interactions a perception puzzle is a great way to take a few minutes out of the day and refresh our minds with a challenge which is unrelated to work.

Some challenges require a great debate, such as the dress which appeared as different colours to different people that hit the internet in 2015, whilst others are more quickly solved; for example, the photograph which hit the papers recently which appeared to show a cow grazing along the roof of a Newton Abbot bungalow. But however complex, puzzles of this nature are a great way of reminding us that what we perceive as reality may not always be so.

It’s a lesson which many organisations and organisational leaders would do well to remember. What our customers think of us, how our products are perceived, how engaged are our employees; by the time answers to questions such as these reach the leadership they may well have been filtered through successive layers of departments, all of whom have put their own spin on the information. So what we think we know has been coloured by what others want us to know and the problems which we think we need to address may not be the ones which are likely to sink our organisation.

So when we set out to review and revise our organisational culture, when new projects or mergers or reorganisations are in the pipeline then our chance of success will be considerably enhanced if we first take time to find out is actually going on. This doesn’t mean asking our direct reports if everything is okay and it doesn’t mean stopping a few people in the corridor to’ just see if they have any problems.’

Human nature being human nature, unless you already have an amazing open and interactive organisational culture any direct questions of this nature are likely to be seen as a threat and answered in the negative. That’s one reason why employee engagement is so much more effective if you move away from annual questionnaires and instead adopt online employee led engagement programs. And it’s also one reason why when you really need to find out what’s going on, you take time to properly scope and introduce a defined cultural assessment which takes input from all levels within the organisation.

Properly run, a cultural assessment can reveal so much about the organisation and about the way in which departments within the organisation interacts and are led. It can indicate problem areas and potential flashpoints as well as providing the basis for future developments. More importantly, it can provide a better indication of how things actually are rather than how others want you to think they are.

Does a tree falling make a sound? That’s a question for another time but what I can say is that if you are hearing the mood of the organisation from afar then the loss of one tree may be the least of your worries.

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