Corporate Culture is Everything

Glass office towers with white text reading “corporate culture is everything” on topOn three separate occasions this week I have found myself engaged in discussions on the topic of organizational corporate culture.

In each case the person I was chatting with described dysfunctional behavior in their workplace.

I have become fascinated with the role that corporate culture plays in organizations. So much so that  I’ve transitioned much of my corporate into developing the cultural norms that deliver optimal performance from their workforce.

Dictionary.com includes the following among its definitions of culture:

• the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.

• the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.

To me, culture simply means this is what is normal around here, this is how we do things around here.

Corporate Culture OS

If culture was software, it would be the operating system that drives everything else: the strategy, protocols, workflow, techniques, policy, procedures, practices and methodologies all stem from the corporate culture.

The most sophisticated, efficient and high functioning software will not perform in an environment governed by an incompatible operating system.

The standard practice in this situation is to update the operating system. In organizational culture this means clearly redefining and putting into practice new norms around business practices, conduct and behavior.

Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

The long-held belief is that the road to successful corporate culture change is both lengthy and difficult.

My own opinion is that this is just not so. My dealings with many corporations have taught me that there is no one cultural norm within an organization, but rather a series of individual norms that exist within different groups, teams, departments, areas and geographic regions of organizations.

As complicated as this may seem, change can be achieved when it’s championed and modeled by the most senior leadership of the organization.

Culture is to organizations what habits are to each of us. Our habits determine almost all of the results in our lives. Culture plays an equally significant role in organizational performance.

Enlightened organizations must invest heavily in constantly monitoring their culture and tweaking it. Not doing so pretty much relegates that operating system to subpar performance levels.

They are certain immutable truths that heavily influence our lives in all organizational deliverables. One of those truths is that we always get what we tolerate.

What we end up with is the product of what we have put up with. When we are trying to understand and explain less than stellar results, rather than having our investigation delve into what went wrong with process and methodology, it makes sense to begin with examining the prevailing culture.

As Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal famously declared, “Culture is not the most important thing — it’s the only thing.”

Till we read again.

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