Organisational culture is a challenge that people can be very fearful of – either they feel it’s an impossible task to overcome, that it’s just too nebulous to get hold of, or that it should be treated as something that is organic and left to grow by itself.
Relax – getting a grip on culture is within your reach; all you need to do is step back and recognise what it’s constructed from.
Culture is the product of three basic things:
What we do
How we do it
Why we do it
The first of these is the easiest to understand, and all too sadly that’s where many organisations start and finish when they look at building cohesion in their businesses. What we do is the clearest aspect of any organisation – it’s the products we sell, the widgets we manufacture, the services we deliver. It is easy to rally everyone around these as a fixed point simply because everyone in the organisation is aligned to it – the output that we come together to create is fairly indisputable.
Understanding how we do things opens a deeper conversation about who we are as an organisation. This encompasses not just the processes and systems we use to achieve our goals but the manner in which it is done – it includes our behaviour, our conduct and our perspective of what is right and wrong.
Why we do things within our organisation is the deepest question to ask, and the one which can be the most challenging to uncover. This conversation draws together common aspiration and ambition, and is reflective of the individual motivations that everyone within the organisation holds. Being able to grasp hold of the core motivation behind your business, the “why” behind what we do and how we do it gives you the best opportunity to drive ahead – and this becomes the core of your culture and the origin for everything that comes after it.
Once you have the “why” in place you can use it to build every other aspect of your organisation, building the character, style and motivation which underpins how your business operates
The organisation that can create alignment in all these three areas is setting itself on the route to success. These three foundations build the basis on which a good business can flourish, creating the fundamental shared understanding which makes the culture.