Derek Bishop


Regular service

Date added: 18th Feb 2015
Category: Organisational Culture Change

Keeping your organisation on track means staying culture aware and keeping your finger on the pulse of employee engagement

We may live in a throwaway society but it surprising how some things just last and last.  There’s the cup which sits in a friend’s kitchen; broken and mended so many times that it looks more like a mosaic than a pottery item.  Or there’s the car which has given faithful service for nearly twenty years; serviced regularly and driven carefully, it could easily outlast its owner.

What distinguishes both these items is that they are cared for; they have a value to their owners which far outweighs any monetary price and that means that they are looked after, regularly checked over and repaired as necessary.  My thoughts set off along this pathway this week when I saw reports celebrating 25 years of the Hubble space telescope alongside predictions that Hubble could easily continue to give good service for at least another five years.  Originally built to last for 15 years, regular repair missions have not only cured early focusing problems but also helped to keep Hubble operating way beyond its early design expectations.

Throughout its long service Hubble has been satisfying our unquenchable curiosity about our universe and even when its successor is launched in a few years time, Hubble will still go on adding to our knowledge for some time to come.  Whether we talk about a $10billiontelescope or a £2 cup; the idea that caring about and looking after something can extend its useful life is one which we can, and should, take into the business world.

Before you dismiss this idea, just stop and think for a moment.  You see it’s easy to look at our business day to day, to measure sales and costs, to hire new employees or to consider expanding into new premises or new product lines but how much of that activity actually takes care of the underlying heart of the business? Far more than people and products, turnover and costs, the core culture of the business, its DNA, is the differentiator which will keep the doors open and the customers buying long after its originators have moved on.

So the question has to be asked; when did you last take time to check over and repair your organisation’s culture? It may not be something you’ve even thought about, but the more you keep an eye on the culture and take instant steps to correct it when it starts to go awry; the better it will serve the business.

Sure, you can ignore your culture until the warning signs become so blindingly obvious that they are impossible to ignore.  When employees start taking extended sick leave or departing in droves for other organisations; when bickering and inter-departmental wrangling starts to result in disciplinary actions; when reputation falls like a stone, customers stop coming through the door and investors no longer flock to buy in to your dream; yes you can wait until then but if you do then it may well be too late.

The alternative is to stay culture aware, to keep your finger on the pulse of employee engagement and to take corrective steps immediately there is a slight drift.  By doing so you can ensure that the culture is aligned with the strategy and values of the organisation and that the organisation is aligned with employees, consumers and the wider world.  How do some organisations stay around whilst others fail?  It is a fair bet that it is largely down to the extent to which the organisational culture is valued and cared for.

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