Thursday, November 15, 2012

Organizational Culture Rebooting: Three-Level Culture Cognizance

Organizational culture is just like computer operation system, you need reboot periodically to keep it running smoothly.

There are many multi-national organizations around, but very few true global businesses; there are full of international managers, but even fewer true global leaders. A lot of research has been done on culture — both national and organizational. By appreciating there is no right or wrong culture, and groups of people behave differently for a variety of reasons, it helps form a better understanding of working with different cultures.

Some say, organizational culture is just like computer operation system, you need reboot periodically to keep it running smoothly; Either business culture or geographical culture, also like operation system, deeper than what you can see, there are many components in an operation system, also there are at least three level culture cognizance.

1.    The Culture Interface 

The culture interface is the first level of culture cognizance, it is the characteristics of the organization which can be easily viewed, heard and felt by individuals collectively known as artifacts. The dress code of the employees, office facilities, behavior of the employees, the parties they throw and business style.

From geographical culture perspective, at this level, when people think they understand culture, they may just know some customs, customs are an element of culture, but it does not constitute all of it. Societal norms, Family structure, Behaviors, Speaking styles, Language & Accent, Clothes & style, Eating habits, Holiday & Festivals, Key motivators, etc all are components of culture. But it only touches the surface. 

That said, custom is on the surface, it may take one seven weeks to get to know a lot of customs, language is in the middle, it may take one seven years to be fluent in a language, but culture is broadest and deepest, it may take one seventeen years to continue to fumble around and understand a culture. Still, we may need dig deeper than skin level, and feel some culture mode at next level.

2.    The Culture Mode 

Working well with different cultures is now emerging as a critical success factor for multi-national enterprise. In this context, it is often presumed we are referring to working well with different national cultures. However, in reality, it is a blend of national and organizational cultures — one that can vary significantly from one organization to the other organization.

  • What is organizational culture mode? Professor Nancy Adler, in her book International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior, cites researcher AndrĂ© Laurent: Cultural differences were “significantly greater among managers working within the same multinational corporation than they were among managers working for companies in their own native country. When working for multinational companies, Germans seemingly became more German, Americans more American, Swedes more Swedish, and so on.”
  • A Strong Organizational Culture can beat the odd of regional culture: The organizational culture of global organizations can be so strong that it becomes the dominating culture in spite of a large number of one or two country nationals in their global workforce. That said, a real global enterprise with an advanced organizational culture can make positive influence on community and its ecosystem.
  • Focus on other’s Point of View: In many multi-national organizations, they may celebrate different festivals to show respect for diversified culture, but it doesn’t mean they are true global companies. Instead of trying to fit with others' customs, it is absolutely critical to understand others' viewpoints. When you show empathy and respect, you may rarely meet a person who is unwilling to share their viewpoint – assuming you demonstrate the attitude to be truly willing to listen.
  • Also don’t be over analyzing the culture, worry less about customs, and much more about viewpoints and interests. As old saying, one type of rice can nurture hundreds of personality, to fit in here, American’s culture, even all kids love Big Mac Burger, they may grow into total different person physically, intellectually and spiritually.

3.    The Culture Kernel 

If culture interface is organizational “skin”, culture model is embedded into business backbone, then the culture kernel or core is to touch the heart and mind of business.
As the mission and vision of the organization all come under artifacts and go a long way in deciding the culture of the workplace.

Culture is defined as "the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.", at the core of culture, it’s about business leadership substance, enterprise strategy perception, talent management philosophy, and organization brand and reputation.

To capture the spirit of culture, management need uplift from culture-awareness to culture intelligence, it's about cognizance and empathy-more deeply understand people, create bond with respect and trust, share their viewpoints, understand their value, motivation and priority, get anyone you work with energized and involved, not just recognize culture, but transcend the culture for making human progress and positive influence.

Organizations shall do more reflection: Are we really a global company? Can we attract true global leaders/talents? Which level of culture cognizance do we stick at? And most importantly, are we ready to reboot our culture-The business operation system yet?


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Organizational Culture

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