Organizational & Company Culture

Thinking Outloud: Musings and reflections from our adventures in succession and leadership coaching.

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Organizational & Company Culture

What is Organizational Culture? It’s how people within an organization actually do their work beyond processes; how they communicate, attitudes, and beliefs. The culture is largely determined by the intentions of leadership and the people they select to be a part of it. Culture is a critical influence on all the other aspects of the company/organization including job satisfaction and engagement. How one fits into their org culture shapes their experience and ultimately their loyalty to the company (i.e how long they decide to stay employed with them despite other factors like money and position).

Why does it matter? A strong and unified culture will influence and guide a company's strategies operating from a shared vision, and extend out to how employees treat customers. For example, Google's vision (Mission) to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" creates motivation to constantly innovate and work as a team. People aligned with culture will have higher rates of engagement and productivity because they identify with the mission and are dedicated to supporting behaviors and decisions. Strategies can flop without the right culture, or how people complete their work in that organization. Pushing strategies that go against a company's core values or culture will de-motivate employees and undermine leadership.

Companies like Google, focused on building and maintaining a strong culture, have the opportunity to develop talented people who can make positive impacts and provide a collaborative and cooperative environment for the brand to thrive in, in a sustainable functional culture. Google has embraced the phrase “culture eats strategy for breakfast” by shaping strategies around their cornerstones of culture by continuing to work on improving and evolving, and have created structures and processes to support their high freedom culture. Treating everyone like owners empowers employees to take ownership of their environment (protect the culture) and contribute meaningful work.

What are some ways to understand your company’s culture? The acceptance of new membership within a developed organizational culture and workgroup takes time.
  • Show patience and mindfulness to learn what it's really like to be a team member.
  • Practice being mindful of foundational principles of cross-cultural communication (listen to understand, be willing to learn something new, don't take the differences personally) and modeling ideal standards of behavior while being compassionate of existing company standards.
  • Provide feedback to upper management and/or seek accountability measures to improve through additional training and assessing issues through regular pulse surveys.
  • Finally, do some deliberate research on other employers that are being considered, like a culture interview of someone at the prospective company, to help understand the objectives of leadership and what its like to work there.

Reflection Exercise:
1. Why does  your organization exist? The fundamental purpose it exists.
2. How is your organization distinctive? The enduring core beliefs that should never change.
3. What are the priorities of your organization? The strategic values and standards for behavior that guide the application of their purpose and beliefs.

Graphic from Building a Culture of Distinction workbook (2010) by Sheila L. Margolis, PhD.


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