The Importance of Culture
An organization’s culture is at the heart of business operations and the effectiveness of that organization over time. When an organization’s culture resonates for all of its stakeholders, strategic actions soar, bottom-line improvements follow, and organizational adaptability is maximized.
An organization’s culture develops over time, through challenges and successes, defined explicitly in large part by the founding leadership’s sensibilities and what becomes collectively viewed over time as contributing to company survival. Although most people would admit “business culture” is important, it can be challenging to define, discuss or change. A corporate culture can have a hidden side, as well. “It’s the way things are done around here.” “It’s how people in our organization think and act, every day.”
The founding culture continues to play a role even after the founder has exited.
An organization’s culture is at the heart of business operations, and of the effectiveness and adaptability of that organization over time. Business culture is about how people in your organization relate to each other, to suppliers, to customers, to other stakeholders, and to your company’s strategic goals and objectives.
As in most areas of living and performance, failure to develop a strong and well-grounded foundation will create automatic limits to the heights and depths to which you can explore, sustain, and perform. The same goes for company culture.
Gut feelings can play a powerful role alongside logic — for good and for ill. Business culture includes how people, processes and technology are integrated, side-to-side and top-to-bottom, within your organization, to define and attain your organizational goals over time.
“The bottom line for leaders is that if they do not become conscious of the cultures in which they are embedded, those cultures will manage them. Cultural understanding is desirable for all of us, but it is essential to leaders if they are to lead.” – Edgar Schein, Ph.D., (1985) Organizational Culture and Leadership, 3rd Ed, Jossey-Bass.
Although most people are likely to admit “business culture is important,” it can be challenging for virtually anyone to define or discuss, let alone constructively alter!
Even so, most of us understand that top leadership has the greatest influence on company culture over time.
Our understanding of effective leadership has evolved over the past forty years. For example, “command and control,” we now understand, is only sometimes the most effective leadership approach. Highly participative, relationship-focused, approaches can possess inherent limits, as well. The most effective leadership approach represents an effective match with situation and context.
Our understandings of the role and forms of motivation in individual and organizational learning has likewise advanced over the past forty years. From clear goals and direction through balancing financial and social rewards to optimal motivation and engagement that includes inspirational vision, passion and effective caring for participants’ development — a well-balanced set of of the “right” elements, effectively included, can create “supercharged” performance by evoking intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivators in balanced and strategically activated unison.
Perhaps the best time to work on culture development is before your company is in trouble. A simultaneous focus on resilience and performance represents the most balanced and effective approach over time.