Three Key Elements of Growing Great Organisational Culture

Organisational culture is a particularly interesting topic, where the science is pretty clear on its impact on performance. Simply put, organisations with great culture, over time produce outstanding results – patiently, with persistence and intention. What I have learnt is that you cannot achieve a great organisational culture unless you do three things. Firstly, be really clear on what culture you want and be able to describe it clearly and vividly. Secondly, measure what the culture actually is in operation – that is, people’s perception of how they are expected to do things in the organisation and the messages they are sent by leaders, which signal behaviour, interaction, decision-making and a raft of human capabilities. It’s almost impossible to move culture without comprehensive and clear data on the current culture. Thirdly, find out what caused the organisational culture to be as it is and what outcomes it produces for individuals, teams, divisions and the organisation widely. It is vital not to simply take a guess about these things and find yourself taking actions (albeit sincerely), only to be left wondering why the culture isn’t shifting. Culture is driven by two forces. Firstly, the way leaders behave – the style, messages and strategies they use. Secondly, the systems and processes – organisational design, strategies and communication methods they employ. Too often people think about the former and miss vital systemic approaches to building organisational culture. You can’t have a good culture where systems and processes are broken, and the bureaucracy is cluttered and clumsy. The work we do simply sets up the processes to get this information, helps people understand it and work through it to develop clear and trackable actions to move towards a more constructive culture. Embedded into all this work is helping organisations to think about their true purpose; why they really exist and what they value above all else. Too often organisations adopt values that sound noble but are inconsistent with their day to day behaviour. For example, if you as an organisation value effectiveness and profitability and that’s what you talk about, then say so. Make them a value. Great organisational culture, that is consistent with the behaviour of leaders and is supported by strong systems and processes, means great organisations that are best able to deliver outstanding results.