Monday, June 8, 2015

What're your Top Picks of Three Pillars in Shaping Corporate Culture?

Cultural change and maintenance takes time, investment and concerted, courageous dedicated effort by leaders at all levels to convey the vision and lead the transformation.

People are creatures of habit, which develop all through our lives with the experiences we encounter or pick from others experiences. The learning happens consciously as well as unconsciously. This forms the individual 'culture,' - how an individual thinks and does things. In an organization, when many people come together, they bring their experience, expertise or culture into the workplace, they get combined together to form a 'Group Culture,' which is generally described as 'the way we do things around here.' However, most people would struggle to explain what that really means. More specifically, what are further aspects of culture, and can you pick top three pillars of corporate culture?

In the business context, 'culture' is referring more to the 'values' of a business. Most businesses and organizations will have a public persona that describes their culture often captured within vision and values statements. These define their ‘espoused culture’ - “this is what we say we are.” This, in turn, is often supported by visible business practices, structures, systems, processes, language, hierarchy, behavioral competencies, performance management etc. However, beneath this overt set of cultural norms will be the culture of practice. These are often more subtle and describe what the organization looks like, feels like if one is immersed in it. It is all the unofficial behaviors, language, power networks, communication processes, stories, myths etc. that define “the way we do things around here.” A key foundation of how a business culture is established is based on the behaviors advocated and modeled by leadership. Companies create culture by stating the "values." These are the "living" values, which get tested when something unusual happens. If despite the immediate financial loss, the top management honors its values, it gets transformed into the culture of the organization. If the opposite action is taken, then it destroys the culture, which is being propounded, but not practiced.


The common understanding of corporate culture: There will often be as many of the sub-cultures as there are division, departments, locations and is not necessarily a bad thing – as long as they are aligned and congruent with the espoused culture. Where there is misalignment, there will also be inconsistency, dissonance and a drain of resource and energy. If there is a need to change the existing culture, then the key factor to bring the change has to be based on common understanding; the core purpose of the organization which you all have an agreement upon. Unless you have an agreement for the purpose, the tactics adopted will not succeed. You have to be allies towards the purpose of the organization, then you work as a team to do the jobs that you are responsible for and achieve the desired results. The key to recognizing is that "the best" may not be in the interest of the business; it can have many other stakeholders and their egos, personal agendas etc. The important factor is acknowledging the culture as it is now and then work as a team to take it where you want to take it, through engagement, effective communication, respect etc., towards a common goal. The burning example of this in real life is when unusual thing strikes, almost all join together to deal with it as the purpose is clearly understood and accepted.


A high performing culture is based on these three pillars: Shared responsibility, mutual accountability, and cross-functional collaboration. People become exactly what they think about the most. Thinking about future leads to success. Whereas there are many who do not understand that and respond in the moment. It takes a patient transformational leader to repeatedly address that future regularly. A high performing culture is based on shared responsibility, mutual accountability, and collaboration. These are essential in any successful hierarchy.  If company leadership fosters a culture based on these pillars, it will inspire trust, teamwork and performance throughout and across all levels of the organization. It will set solid foundations for an evolving culture that in turn will nurture the development of its members.


Essential pillars of culture are agility, empowerment, and engagement. A company embracing this type of culture will attract people whose values are aligned with company values and become fertile ground for the development of amazing synergies. Accountability for both one's own actions and holding others accountable as well. Respect (both for co-workers and clients). Passion - be it for the role, service/product or company vision. They are informed and, therefore, better able to adjust. That's not to say there won't be disappointment and resistance. But there is self- empowerment in being resilient. An organization whose culture is built around being resilient develops a workforce that is equipped to weather many storms.


The three pillars of culture could also be: a) Focus on the Customer. b) Value and trust your people. c) Ensure you are a sustainable business. Why is culture essential for organizational development? Leaders are the linchpin in regards to any organizational vision and mission. If you consider three distinctive managerial levels present within any corporate organization as Executive, Operational, Front-line. Executive level leaders are responsible for the development of organizational vision and mission and culture tuning; whereas operational level management develop the action items for that vision and mission; to front-line managers carrying out the actual vision and mission of the organization. An organization shares a common language with its suppliers, staff and customers. The problem is often the business talks about culture being too vital to business success, yet do not spend the right amount of time creating it. Organizations think it can happen overnight - change the logo etc. Put people at the center - your customers and staff and you have the right culture for business success - just look at the most successful companies out there.


Cultural change and maintenance takes time, investment and concerted, courageous dedicated effort by leaders at all levels to convey the vision and lead the transformation. People become exactly what they think about the most. Thinking about future leads to success. Whereas there are many who do not understand that and respond in the moment. It takes transformational leaders to repeatedly address that future regularly. They must recognize the importance of people, culture, processes, etc, and to be effective, they must have the ability to define the problem setting, cultural challenges, and then to orient collaborative team skills in that situation - dependent position that may be key to arriving at a resolution. This means that not only must a leader recognize what skills he/she possesses in influencing and shaping the culture of teams and organization, but must also understand the strengths, kills, and shortfalls of the teams and organization, with the ultimate goals to shape high-performing corporate culture and achieve long timer business prosperity.

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