Saturday, October 5, 2013

A High Performance Culture Journey

Culture is like water of sea, which can keep the boat float, but can also drag it down and sink it...

The culture of a company is basically "how and why we do things around here. Organizational culture is invisible, but powerful; organizational culture seems to be soft, but it’s the hard asset of modern business. You have to understand what forms your organizational culture, before you can start working with it to optimize the working relationships that optimizes the ‘cultural’ equation.

1. ‘Core Components’ of Business Culture 

Understanding how organizational cultures are formed and developed is a key part of organizational development. Two of the core determinants of organizational culture are leadership and demographics. The spirit of organization comes from top, leadership plays pivotal role in shaping organization’s culture. On the other side, culture is organization’s DNA- the ‘gene’ which is based on its demographic characteristics.     
  • Leadership component: The culture of an organization begins at the top, and filters down through the management team; that said, organizational culture is multi-level; the senior officers create the overall culture and rules of engagement, while each unit of the organization tends to add onto these with 'local' cultures that influence how work gets done, how individuals interact, etc. Goals must be clear, roles and responsibilities unambiguous, an effective talent management process in place, and the ability to delegate to your management team unwavering 
  • Demographics component, which include age, gender, race, religion, cognitive difference, personality etc; needs to be matched by the leadership, strategic and operational approach to the business as it looks at ways to ensure sustainable growth within its industry sector and for its specific target markets; while optimizing the outputs from the organizational make-up (which includes ‘its culture’) 

2. How does Culture get Developed 

The true organizational culture goes a lot deeper and is always multifaceted, especially in today’s global economy. Culture is an organization’s ‘habit’, which can not be dictated from above, but has to be developed and nurtured.

  • Culture defines (besides many other aspects):
    * how are failures/ disappointments perceived and handled
    * how is the customer defined (internal/ external, ...) and handled
    * how is co-operation and communication between different organizational entities
    * is there a "we can do it" or a defensive atmosphere, does the organization believe in long term success and growth
    * how does the individual feel rewarded/ recognized for his contribution
    * how are positions filled and candidates selected - is cultural fit considered or only CV progression and educational background 

  • Culture is the "habit’: Active contribution of the leaders and "living by example" is important to the cultural evolution, but culture can not be defined by the leadership team in a procedure. It starts at the top, but it has to diffuse downward to every employee. Messaging must be clear, and then over time, with a consistent cultural or branding message communicated and practiced (not just preached), only then can you hope that the culture will be pervasive throughout the organization. And it directly reflects business value. 
  • Culture is the brand: It's a sign of a very strong leader and corporate culture when it stays intact throughout the world - when the 'brand' and 'the culture' are as one. When companies start to spread across the country or borders, then the culture gets diluted and starts to vary. At global scope, the 'organizational culture' is influenced by the local culture and to some extent, the further away from the 'head office' they are, the more they seem to adapt their own unique cultures being influenced by their own local environment. This doesn't mean that these 'regional changes' in culture are always positive - but it seems the further away the office/branch is from the 'core' (head office), the more they are influenced by local factors. Interestingly the culture dilution has been mitigated in some large multinationals in a rather prosaic way by using standard procedures/processes. Although procedures do not embody the culture as they infuse it without ‘the spirit’.

3. High Performance Culture Journey 

High Performance Culture is an Attitude & Leadership Quality that institutionalize the true foundation for continuous improvement through operational excellence, sustainability, customer delight and outstanding business growth; high performance… ultimately becomes a way of life for the enterprise…

Along this path, there are many obstacles: high egos, envies, lack of vision, personal interests, dislikes for people, dislikes for customers, dislikes for following procedures, the outside factors such as certain negatives in local culture - all of which can stop high performance cultures or teams. 

A high performance company walks as they talk. It takes time and leadership to develop competitive cultures. It begins with a mission and a vision; it follows with selecting and recruiting good people, plus retaining them. In order to develop and sustain high performance culture, everybody in organization must form a united front to achieve excellence and harmony. From upper management downward to the most humble employee - a high performance company walks as they talk, otherwise people loses focus and loses excellence.

A high performance organization is dreaming beyond boundaries to translate into realities through its own high performance culture


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