Shaping Organizational Culture

Building Organizational Culture

Managers are tasked with both creating and communicating a consistent organizational culture.

Learning Objectives

Describe strategies used by managers to create and maintain a consistent organizational culture.

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The process of instilling culture into an organization involves communicating and integrating a broad cultural framework throughout the organizational process.
  • A strong culture is integral to long-term organizational sustainability and success; a primary responsibility of management is to both define and communicate this sense of shared organizational culture.
  • Organizational culture is often defined by the work environment that management creates (i.e., mission statement, organizational structure, rules, symbols, etc.).
  • Managers must be careful to instill the culture that is most conducive to both the strategy and objectives of the organization over the long term.

Key Terms

  • organizational culture: The collective behavior of the people who make up an organization, including values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs, and habits.
  • culture: The beliefs, values, behavior, and material objects that constitute a people’s way of life.

Organizational culture refers to the collective behavior of the people who make up an organization; this includes their values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs, and habits. Organizational culture affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders. A strong culture is integral to long-term organizational sustainability and success, and one of management’s primary responsibilities is to both define and communicate this sense of shared culture.

The process of ingraining culture into an organization is simply one of communicating and integrating a broad cultural framework throughout the organizational process. Central to this process is ensuring that each and every employee both understands and aligns with the values and direction of the broader organization. This creates a sense of community among employees and ensures that the broader objectives and mission of the organization are clear.

While there are a variety of cultural perspectives and many organizational elements within a culture, the initial process of instilling culture is relatively consistent from a managerial perspective. The creation of a given culture is often defined by management’s strategy for addressing the following issues:

  • The paradigm: Management determines both the mission and vision of the organization and sets a groundwork for the values that employees are expected to align with. Determining these factors and communicating them effectively are absolutely critical to successfully instilling organizational culture.
  • Control systems: An example of this may be an employee handbook where behavioral expectations are laid out explicitly (where possible) for employees to read and understand.
  • Organizational structures: The choice of an organizational structure has enormous cultural implications for openness of communication, organization of resources, and flow of information.
  • Power structures: Power and culture are often intertwined: the degree to which specific individuals are free (or not) to make decisions is indicative of the openness and fluidity of the organization.
  • Symbols: All strong brands associate with symbols (think logos). These are not randomly selected: symbols show which specific facets of an organizational culture management considers most important.
  • Rituals and routines: Routines are strong behavior modifiers that significantly impact the culture of a given organization. A looser and more open work environment (limited routines, high individual freedom) may create more innovation while heavily structured routines may create more efficiency and predictability.
  • Stories and myths: Finally, stories are powerful communicators of culture. Walmart uses Sam Walton’s founding as a powerful myth to promote efficiency and the desire to try new things and integrate various products and services. This is organizationally defining.
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Cultural change in an organization: The feedback loop of cultural change in an organization involve people’s intentions to enable, engage, encourage, and exemplify the new desired behaviors; this in turn influences the frequency of behaviors. After enough reinforcement, those behaviors become the norm, which self-reinforces through increasing people’s exemplification of those behaviors.

Overall, managers must be aware of their role as cultural ambassadors and their responsibility in creating a context for successfully instilling organizational culture. For example, promoting a strong authoritarian hierarchy and strong innovation would be an oversight in the field of organizational culture from a management professional. Managers must be careful to instill the culture that is most conducive to both the strategy and objectives of the organization over the long term.

Communicating Organizational Culture

Management is tasked with both creating culture and accurately communicating it across the organization.

Learning Objectives

Recognize the role of management in communicating and teaching organizational culture to employees and subordinates.

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Corporate culture is used to control, coordinate, and integrate company subsidiaries.
  • The role of the manager is essential to the successful communication of a given organizational culture because managers are figureheads and role models for how individuals in the organization should behave.
  • Organizations should strive for what is considered a “healthy” organizational culture to increase productivity, growth, efficiency, and to reduce counterproductive behavior and turnover of employees.

Key Terms

  • organization: A group of people or other legal entities with an explicit purpose and written rules.

Corporate culture is used to control, coordinate, and integrate company subsidiaries. Culture runs deeper than this definition, however, because culture also represents the embedded values, traditions, beliefs, and behaviors of a given group. Culture is indicative not only of what individuals pursue and believe in, but also their behaviors, assumptions, and communications. As a result, culture is both complex to create and challenging to communicate and imbue within the organization.

Communicating Culture

The role of the manager is essential to the successful communication of a given organizational culture because managers are figureheads and role models for how individuals in the organization should behave. While it is too simplistic to say that culture is a top-down communicative process, there is relevance to the idea that culture generally begins with the founders of the organization and the values they emphasize in the organizational growth and hiring process.

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Organization triangle: This organization triangle illustrates the idea that structure, process, and the people involved all contribute to the culture of an organization.

Leaders have a number of tools and strategies at their disposal to communicate culture. Some of the most critical of these are structure, hierarchy, mission and vision statements, employee handbooks, hiring processes, and employee training and initiation. With many diverse tools for communicating culture comes the challenge of aligning each perspective for consistency of message: for instance, the employee training program must emphasize the same values as the mission statement and must match the executive mandate for organizational structure and design.

Communication is the core tool for managing this cultural integration, enabling executives to remind employees what the organization stands for and why it’s important. Holding company-wide quarterly meetings to emphasize objectives and strategy and sending out emails with key successes and developmental challenges are great ways to keep the conversation going.

The Role of HR

It is also critical to make the hiring process match and promote the culture by hiring talent that is consistent with cultural expectations and implementing training programs that effectively emphasize what the organization stands for and why. Human resource professionals are tasked with identifying candidates with culturally consistent perspectives and with underlining the importance of cultural considerations in interviews and on-boarding processes.

Building a Culture of High Performance

A high-performing culture is a results-driven business culture focused on generating efficiency and completing objectives.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the primary drivers and positive characteristics of a high-performing culture.

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Every business has its own culture. High- performance cultures are specifically focused on setting and accomplishing objectives with a high degree of efficiency and efficacy.
  • High-performing teams are an integral component of high-performance cultures.
  • A high-performing team is a group of people with complementary talents and skills. They are given clear roles and are committed to a common purpose. This enables synergy.
  • Culture is a combination of individual perspectives and the environment in which they operate. Business looking to create a high-performance culture must create an interdependent environment which empowers employee responsibility and decision -making.

Key Terms

  • SMART: Goal-setting criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
  • performing: The stage of group development when the the team is able to function as a unit, finding ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or supervision.
  • high-performing team: groups that are highly focused on their goals and that achieve superior business results.

Organizations need to be productive in order to achieve their goals. Over time, productivity can become a part of organizational culture, eventually becoming integrated into the company’s operations and processes. The business becomes known for its productivity, and high performance becomes second-nature for its employees. A high-performing culture is defined by a focus on generating and accomplishing objectives. There is a strong sense of both results-orientation and employee interdependence.

A High-Performing team

An effective way to achieve high-performing culture is to create high-performing teams. A high-performing team is best defined as a group of interdependent employees whose skills and personalities complement one another and lead to above-average operational results. High-performance teams are a central building block of high-performance culture, and they thrive in innovative and empowering environments.

Leadership in any team environment is critical to success, but leadership within a high-performance culture is often complex. While leadership is normally static in a hierarchical environment, high-performance teams benefit from shared leadership by utilizing the different talents and perspectives of each team member in the decision-making process. This creates a strong culture of shared leadership which in turn can generate above-average results and highly motivated employees who trust one another.

Culture is defined by creating its own consciousness in an organization, indicating shared norms and values. These shared values are central elements of the organization, as they generate buy-in and dedication from employees. These shared values create an expectation of success, both professional and personal, that can create high levels of trust and shared accountability. In short, shared values are key to creating strong team dynamics.

There are ten elements in particular that are important to successfully integrating high-performance teams within an organizational culture:

  1. Participative leadership – Involve the entire team when making decisions, and rely on specialists only when applicable.
  2. Effective decision making – Ensure that decision-making is both strategic and efficient. Group decision-making is often slowed when team dynamics are weak, which requires team-building to fix.
  3. Open and clear communication – As always with group dynamics, communication is key to success. Ensure everyone is speaking and listening.
  4. Valued diversity – Team synergy is lost when groupthink dominates the discussion. Instill open-mindedness and dispel social fears of disagreeing.
  5. Mutual trust – Reliance upon one another, and trust in each other’s skills and capabilities, allows for less duplication of work and more overall synergy.
  6. Managing conflict – Conflict is inevitable and not necessarily a bad thing. Deal with it calmly and without personal biases or emotions. Let the best ideas win.
  7. Clear goals – SMART objectives are essential to high performance, just as understanding where one is going is essential to finding the best route.
  8. Defined roles and responsibilities – Everyone should have a clear understanding of why they are on the team and what they are responsible for.
  9. Coordinated relationships – Building strong team dynamics requires team members to understand each other and build strong relationships. Utilize ice-breaking activities and promote casual discussion to get this started.
  10. Positive atmosphere – Wherever possible, make sure the general perspective is one of constructive commentary. Maintaining a positive outlook empowers communication and improves team spirit.
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