July 10, 2017

Culture By Design

by Russ Sarratt

On an almost weekly basis, I answer questions dealing with organizational culture...

More specifically, folks are curious about how to change their culture. This is a complex issue with multi-faceted solutions. Each organization or team will face both common and unique challenges.

Over the next weeks, we are going to take a two-step approach that I hope will shed some light on organizational culture and how to make positive changes that will last. This week, we will define culture and establish basic context to help you understand our worldview related to culture. At the outset of our culture exploration, there are four main areas of focus:

 

  • First, it is imperative to realize organizational culture is a real thing.  While some may struggle to define or describe it, every organization has a culture. Since it can be difficult to quantify, some would say that it does not really exist; this is simply not true. Many organizations and teams struggle to leverage their culture because they have lacked intentionality in its development. Therefore, the existing culture has grown spontaneously, rather than by design.

 

  • Secondly, while each culture is different, there is no right or wrong culture. Every culture has some good aspects and some bad aspects. The best organizations will seek to grow the best aspects of their current culture and work toward improving the parts that are not as they want them to be.

 

  • Thirdly, culture is not what you hope for it to be. Culture (an amalgamation of the thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and “ways of doing things” that currently permeate your organization) is not defined by your aspirations; it is what exists in this very moment. While it is important to acknowledge the cultural goals you seek, change must begin by realistic recognition of where your culture is today.

 

  • Finally, we must answer the question, ”Does culture really eat strategy for lunch?”  This famous Peter Drucker quote is held to like a life raft by many who are more attracted to the “people” side of organizations. The reality is that a healthy culture, winning strategy, and productive execution are all necessary for a successful, healthy organization. Focusing on only one of these aspects will result in a team that is out of balance and failing to achieve maximum effectiveness. Think of culture as the supercharger that can accelerate the strategy and execution of your team.

 

How do you view your team’s culture? What do you like about it? What changes would you like to see? If you are like most leaders, there are probably things you love and things you would change. In our next blog, we will look at some specific ways you can see development in your team and organization’s culture.

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