The problem surrounding organisational culture
Often times, senior leaders and executives are the ones to set and define an organisation’s culture and values. These values then end up on a wall for everyone to see – and it is assumed that these values are implemented and upheld throughout an organisation, manifesting into a shared culture.
However, from the eyes of the employees, the reality of the shared beliefs, behaviours, and assumptions that make up organisation’s culture and values can often be completely different.
Important questions surrounding organisational culture
In order to unpack why this occurs, let’s pose a few questions. Particularly to the leaders reading on…
- Do you as senior managers understand the true culture and the lived values of their organisations?
- Have you or your organisation identified the culture that you really want? (ie. Have you asked yourself “where do we actually want our organisational culture to be”?)
- Have you considered how to build a sustainable organisational culture and what processes could support that?
- Have you considered the best way to monitor and review your culture to ensure you maintain where you want to be?
So, why do organisations get this so wrong? To start with, let’s look at what organisational culture is.
Organisational Culture Definition
Organisational culture can be defined as a unique set of shared beliefs, assumptions, values, and norms that shape the socialisations, representations, language, and practices of a group of people. Essentially, these refer to the mantra that employees use to guide their behaviour and actions. Culture is therefore refined and conveyed by employees, consciously and unconsciously – now and into the future.
The Iceberg Model and Organisational Culture
Elements of culture can be typified using the Iceberg model above.
What you can see every day is classified as the artefacts or tangible elements.
These include physical structures, the language an organisation uses to function and sell its services, as well as it’s rituals – the way an organisation positions itself and how its customers recognise it. These are the vision, mission, purpose, goals, and strategic objectives of the organisation.
However, it is the intangible elements below the waterline that represent the reality of your organisations culture.
Things like shared values and shared assumptions – do they match what is above the line when leaders are not around or do behaviours change into something else? Other areas that sit below the waterline include office politics and old ways of doing things, all of which have an impact on organisational culture and whether it meets the intended mark.
Making Your Intended Organisational Culture Reality
The challenge for leaders is to work towards a match between the intended culture above the surface and what happens day to day underneath the surface.
Ultimately, it is important that leaders understand the reality of their organisation’s culture and it’s lived values – and whether these are a true representation of their businesses.
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