So, you turn up at the workplace, do your job, go home, get paid at the end of the month – and that’s all there is to it?
If you want to enjoy your work and progress your career, then you need to home in on the culture of your organisation.
This goes under a few different names – ‘organisational culture’, ‘company culture’, ‘corporate culture’, ‘workplace culture’ and so on – but they all mean more or less the same thing. It’s the ethos, habits, behaviours, values and practices that the employees (and the management) follow to make up the workplace model. You can conform to this, or, if you’re something of a ‘maverick’ you can actively rebel against it – but ignore it at your peril.
Why is it so important? Well, it’s to do with psychology. Generally speaking, human beings tend to congregate like with like – because, quite simply, it’s more comfortable. So, if you feel that you’re working with a team that thinks like you and behaves like you, then you’re likely to find your workplace a congenial, predictable, if sometimes boring, place to be. In simple terms we like to be around people who are like us. We get them. And they get us. So, it works just fine. But as you’ll know most workplace cultures don’t work like this because we’re all different!
You know what you’re supposed to do and feel – because everyone else does and feels the same. Now, suppose someone comes along who has a completely different take on things and either can’t or won’t conform to the company culture? All of a sudden, you’re out of your comfort zone and being asked to accommodate different behaviours and practices. You may perhaps find this refreshing and exciting, or alternatively tiresome or even threatening. It’s a bit like when a new employee joins the team. You’re sizing them up to see if you like them (ie will they fit in). They’re thinking about whether they like the organisational culture. What usually happens is that both parties, quite often, find a happy medium. If this doesn’t happen then someone usually takes exception and that’s when friction builds in the workplace. This affects the corporate culture and needs to be addressed promptly.
So, that’s the perspective of an employee – but what about business owners and managers? An organisational culture is something that can either evolve of its own accord, or it can be created and managed, which makes it a very powerful tool for business management and growth.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of different types of organisational culture – some of these may be familiar!
The following classification was devised by Charles Handy in 1999:
- The power culture – a bit like a spider’s web, with the all-important ‘boss’ figure sitting at the centre. The closer you are to the central figure the more power you are perceived to have. Size can be a problem, as can succession when the central figure goes.
- The role culture – typically this type can be seen as columns of different specialisms or functions, connected by an overall narrow band of senior management at the top. Unsurprisingly, this type of culture finds it difficult to adapt quickly to change and performs best, in economically stable sectors.
- The task culture – will be job or project-oriented and the emphasis is on getting the right people and resources together at the right time. It depends heavily on teamwork, but control of the outcome can be a problem, because the overall manager often has little or no control over the day-to-day issues of working.
- The person or support culture – this is relatively rare and can best be described as a loosely-connected cluster. The individual is the focal point, and if there’s an organisational structure, it exists only to serve and assist the individuals within it, to further their own interests without any overriding objective. The reason this is rare is that most organisations have corporate aims and objectives that over-ride those of the individuals in the work-force. On the other hand, it’s quite possible for individuals with this organisational culture preference to work with the more orthodox cultures. They are frequently consultants or specialists or of course they may themselves be the business owner (especially in a small business)
From the above which organisational culture looks most familiar to you?
That’s just one classification and there are a number of other models. Deal & Kennedy’s model (1982) had the following:
- The tough guy, macho culture, typified by organisations where success is measured in financial terms, and involving high risks and quick feedback
- The work hard/play hard culture, where employees will take few risks and success is measured by persistence. Typically, you get a lot of meetings, conventions, teamworking, jargon and buzzwords
- The bet-your-company culture. This is usually firms involved in big projects where it may take years before you know whether your decision was the right one!
- The process culture. You can wait in vain for feedback here, because the emphasis is not on what is done but on how it is done. At its most extreme we call it bureaucracy!
Whichever model of organisational culture you favour, it’s worth taking a look at both the job and the person doing it. As a potential employee, is your job description going to lead you towards an employer who is likely to adopt a specific culture? Does this chime with you and the job you’re going to do, or, if your own culture is different, can you work with it? As an employer, are you looking at the right potential employees when recruiting? Do your existing employees adopt the company culture or would a different culture work better?
Of course, the big point about cultures lies in the word itself – they are ‘cultivated’. So, have you got the culture that best meets your business needs both now and in the future – or if not, how can you alter this? Here’s a few classifications of my own:
- The hands-on boss – involved in every decision and process, taking both credit and blame for the outcome
- The delegator – much more of a team-player, willing to delegate responsibility and reward by results
- The systems addict – concentrating on the methodology of success measured by outcomes
- The optimistic planner – plans for the future based on their own perception of the past and present
As you’ll see, the first two indicate management style and the second two whether a business is solidly based on targets and measurements or whether it’s more like flying by the seat of one’s pants.
My top tip for defining and cultivating a winning organisational culture is to CONSULT. There’s no one winning company culture that fits all. Consult with your workforce or with your peers. Does the current culture suit the company, does it suit individual employees and will it carry the company forward to the future? If not, then work towards changing the corporate culture.
You can find further discussions about this topic, join in with conversations about business development and find me in the Unlimited success community here: