Corporate culture may seem like a buzzword, but it’s not. Just like a country, city, or family, every organization has its own culture that defines it. Executives seeking to define their corporate culture must do so thoughtfully and carefully.
A company’s culture includes its encompassing goals, vision for the future, and shared beliefs. While leaders usually have no problem developing a strategic vision, corporate culture can be harder to create.
Culture develops from behaviors and social patterns. It takes time to create a culture and change it. Senior leaders develop the initial components of the culture they want, then hand it over to HR to implement. However, HR usually lacks the authority or capability to enforce culture.
Executives who understand company culture are in an excellent position to manage it effectively.
There are many definitions of company culture. While definitions vary, four characteristics of culture tend to permeate across the board.
Culture can’t exist if most people in the group don’t share certain beliefs. A single individual’s ideas cannot spill over to create the company culture. Instead, the majority of the group must possess the same values and norms.
The culture of a group must permeate through most of the actions and behaviors of the participants. It can manifest visibly in stories, the environment, and symbols. Non-visible elements of culture include mindsets and assumptions.
Culture doesn’t last for a few weeks or months and then disappear. The culture must remain even as time passes. It becomes an inherent characteristic that transcends organizational changes.
Finally, culture is typically understood intuitively. Group members understand the behaviors and actions that comply with the culture and those that do not. It’s sensed automatically by group members.
Before delving into the eight different styles of culture, it’s essential to understand that they each fit into one of two categories: people interactions and response to change.
People interactions include all the communication activities between:
The organization will fit somewhere along the spectrum of:
Response to change reflects how the organization reacts to changes in the environment. The spectrum will range from stability to flexibility. Stable companies value rules and control, while flexible ones prefer innovation and creativity.
All eight styles of culture impact people’s interactions or responses to change.
Caring primarily concerns interactions with people. It focuses on maintaining relationships and developing trust. Organizations that promote caring seek a culture that highly values sincerity and teamwork.
Purpose refers to the overall meaning of the company. Purposeful companies promote idealism and generosity toward the environment, their customers, or other entities. They focus on helping the greater community.
Companies that promote learning are seeking to disrupt existing industries or markets. They want to change the world. Organizations that value learning typically hire individuals who have a high degree of creativity and value knowledge.
Not everything has to be serious, and a company that values enjoyment is well aware of this fact. Organizations that promote enjoyment want a fun working environment where people feel happy. Typically, they’ll use humor and playfulness to make the workplace an enjoyable place to be.
Results-oriented organizations value success and winning. They push for employees to give their best efforts toward their performance. The pursuit of goal accomplishment is the ultimate value of the company.
In an authority-driven organization, the workplace is very competitive. Each person seeks to achieve the most for the company. The employer rewards top performers, and leaders have lots of confidence.
Organizations that value safety are risk-averse. They highlight planning and preparedness. Employees in these companies thoroughly review their plans before making serious decisions.
Companies that promote order believe in following the rules in a step-by-step fashion. Everyone cooperates, and there are ingrained traditions and customs the organization abides by. The company puts respect and structure above all other values.
Once senior leaders understand the eight styles of culture, they can choose the one that best applies to their organization and visually shape it.
Certain environmental aspects, like the location of the organization, its leadership, and the industry it operates in, can affect the outcome of a company. However, other elements do, too.
Generally, a strong culture that most employees believe in will lead to a more remarkable outcome. The company will suffer if employees disagree with the culture or the organization doesn’t promote strategies that align with it.
Leadership must express the company’s culture through its decision-making and strategy. For instance, a company that values learning will promote innovation and process improvement throughout all departments. Similarly, a company that values safety will be cautious before embarking on new endeavors.
The organization must adapt its culture for the future. For instance, if the industry is changing, it may seek to redirect its culture from safety and security to one that is authority-driven.
If an organizational leadership change is coming, the new leader must be able to transform the culture in a way that fits the environment.
When two companies merge, they often have different styles of culture. To ensure the company doesn’t lose value, the new leader must actively seek to align the two cultures so they can adequately integrate.
Identifying values that both companies possess and developing them into a culture that resonates with all team members can improve the integration process and prevent the loss of value.
If the culture doesn’t align with the business strategy, it will likely fall apart. Leaders must be careful to incorporate the company’s goals when deciding how to promote the culture.
Sometimes, the culture will need to change if the company’s vision shifts. For instance, if the organization moves from high growth to stability, it may change its culture from one dominated by authority and learning to one of results and order.
A company’s culture — or lack of one — can lead it into a tailspin if leadership doesn’t properly manage it. Once executives understand the eight different cultural styles, they must carefully implement one or more into the organization’s processes. Once a style is implemented, leadership must monitor the specific values and their outcomes.
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