Organizational Culture

by Eric Wann


When was the last time you took a serious look at your organization's culture? For most people, this is not a thought that starts their day as they begin to wade through the numerous tasks that need to be accomplished. Last night I went to sleep thinking about a client's organizational culture and what could be done to both better define and strengthen this nebulous aspect of working together.

Most managers and supervisors would say that it is not their role to define and strengthen the culture of their organization. But, that is just not true. It is true that your position in the organization does impact your role. Top managers assume the overall responsibility for their organizational culture. But, defining and strengthening that culture is everyone's responsibility. In fact, every day you are doing these two actions - although for most people, they are working in the opposite direction.

Most people, when asked, find it difficult to describe their organization's culture. This is every manager's role to help people to understand how the organization works, what the way of life is that helps promote productivity and excellence. A manager or supervisor also strengthens this culture every time it is promoted, aligned with, and celebrated. Almost every day to day activity can be discussed in terms of the company's culture.

The three most important elements of culture are the people, the policies and procedures and the organization's value structure. Your people define the organization and communicate your culture to others outside the organization. Your policies and procedures provide the guidelines and structure of what can and should occur. Your values describe the behavioral playing field of your organization. I will provide additional detail on this area of values in the next article. All three of these elements are within your control.

It is always much easier to make a culture adjustment when an organization is small but growing. It becomes much more difficult, though not impossible, when the organization is large and the culture is fully ingrained. For example, the church that I attend was started about 3 Ω years ago. When we began, we spent a considerable amount of time determining up front what type of church/culture we wanted to build. We spent the first couple of years making certain that what we were doing reflected that culture. In the last six months we have witnessed over 100% growth in our congregation. Even with the addition of nearly 100 people into our church organization, the culture that we put in place is as strong, if not stronger, than ever. Proper planning and definition helps a great deal.

I encourage you to set some time aside in these next few weeks to identify and discuss the type of organization you are building and how you can further define and then strengthen your organizational culture. The right culture will not suddenly appear without the guidance of its leaders.