The culture of the corporate environment of an organization is a factor to consider when instituting and managing change. On an overt level, an organization operates along the lines of its belief and observable behavior. As a result, the organization is influenced by people’s collective assumptions. Let’s take a look at what organizational culture is and how deeply it impacts everyday work.
How to Put Your Organizational Culture in Bold
Though the combination of these elements can be blatant or subtle, culture is a true part of organizational life that can be conveyed by a number of practices, including:
- Oral and written communications, such as presentations and memoranda.
- Organizational structure, as reflected by line and staff relationships.
- The way power and status are defined both formally and informally.
- What is measured and controlled, such as time and quality.
- Formal policies and procedures found in employee manual and official communication.
- Reward systems, such as compensation plans and supervisory techniques.
- Stories, legends, myths, rituals, and symbols, such as company heroes, award banquets, and corporate logos.
- The design and use of physical facilities, including how space is allocated and furnished.
The Role of Your Company Culture
During periods of major change, cultural boundaries are seriously strained. While this has always been true, the increasing volume, momentum, and complexity of change in combination with the shifting demographics of today’s workforce are intensifying. In consequence, the challenge of maintaining cultural cohesion is rising exponentially.
If an organization’s cultural environment is not managed well, people will feel that changes are coming at a greater volume, momentum, and complexity than they can adequately assimilate. These feelings hinder the process of absorbing change for many organizations. Therefore, a key element to enhancing resilience and minimizing the change of dysfunctional behavior is to actively manage the organization’s culture.
How to Avoid a Collision Between Change and Organizational Culture
Your organization’s cultural traits must be consistent with what is necessary for driving new decisions, and/or those decisions will not be successfully implemented. However, the overlap between the existing behaviors, beliefs and assumptions and those required for your changes to succeed may vary greatly.
Whenever a discrepancy exists between the current culture and the objective of your change, the culture always wins. The effective management of your corporate culture is an essential contributor to the implementation success. It cannot be left to chance. When facing an organizational culture that may hinder a desired change, your options are to:
- Modify the change to be more in line with the existing behaviors, beliefs, and assumptions of your culture.
- Modify the behaviors, beliefs, and assumptions of the current culture to be more supportive of the change.
- Prepare for the change to fail.
You can’t change a culture without strong resolve from the top management and a wide-angle view of the situation. Developing a plan to implement a new definition of customer relations, for example, must include clear statements of vision (why the organization exists), mission (what it is going to accomplish), and strategy (how it is going to work toward its objectives).
Assessing the degree of consistency between the existing culture and the kind of culture needed to implement the change is critical to success of any new organizational focus. If the existing culture is inconsistent with the behaviors, beliefs, and assumptions necessary for success, that culture must be altered or the effort will fail.
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A., Human Resource Development