Organisational Culture

Among countless articles on culture, Business Dictionary describes it as follows:

The values and behaviours that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organisation.

Organisational culture includes an organisation’s expectations, experiences, philosophy, and values that hold it together, and is expressed in its self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world, and future expectations. It is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid. It can be shown in:

  • The ways the organisation conducts its business, treats its employees, customers, and the wider community
  • The extent to which freedom is allowed in decision making, developing new ideas, and personal expression
  • How power and information flow through its hierarchy, and
  • How committed employees are towards collective objectives.

It affects the organisation’s productivity and performance, and provides guidelines on customer care and service, product quality and safety, attendance and punctuality, and concern for the environment.

  • If we are to take this as a reasonable definition, what questions does it raise for leaders & managers within organisations?
  • Does our organisational culture give us competitive business advantage?
  • Do management & employees fully understand its benefits?
  • Actual values vs Espoused values – do we demonstrate them in everyday dealings or are they just laminated on the wall?
  • Are the values translated into clear objectives, expectations & behaviours?
  • Are these objectives, expectations & behaviours recognised, measured & rewarded?
  • Do we ask for stakeholder feedback on our values & behaviours?
  • Are they regularly reviewed?
  • Do we recruit to them?

Organisational culture can also be simply identified as ‘It’s just the way we do things round here’ as stated in the Harvard business review. Indeed it is often a strange brew of the formal and the informal with sub cultures existing in different parts of the organisation.

Whatever we feel about organisational culture and leadership there is no doubt that we know that it can have significant impact on employee engagement, performance and reputation as recent high profile cases (VW for example) have shown.