An Oversimplified view of Organisation Culture diminishes the capacity to achieve positive change

Many businesses are feeling the pinch due to the current harsh economic conditions. For this reason, they must constantly seek innovative ways of cutting their costs and pleasing consumers in very volatile markets. Dealing with this reality will inevitably require drastic changes in all aspects of the work environment. If there is a failure to adapt to these circumstances one will face a high probability of going out of business. In order to achieve positive changes so that organisations can deal with these circumstances one must have the full cooperation of employees, which is no easy task given the intricacies involved in Organisational Culture.

Defining organisational culture can be a bit tricky and the definition we choose to subscribe to will determine our perspective on how it needs to be dealt with. Many are of the view that simply by changing external arrangements such as the dress code or mission statement one can change the culture. However, with close examination it is evident this approach requires very little effort and does not scratch the surface of the many problematic issues which are rooted in the values and assumptions ingrained within an organisation. Based on surveys done by Research and Advisory Firm Gartner, CEOs and CHROs are devoting more resources into managing and developing culture. However, based on the data retrieved, it was concluded that companies are spending as much as $2,200 per employee on average and only 30% of CHRO’s reported a reasonable return. It goes without saying that employees must buy into whatever direction leaders intend to go in order to achieve desirable objectives.

Nevertheless, it should not be surprising that there is a great disconnect between employees and leaders because there is often a failure to consider the many aspects of the cultural web which are critical to achieve success in positive cultural change. This is primarily due to the fact that many people tend to view culture purely on the external level. Merely playing lip service to what should be done and failing to put the necessary structures and procedures in place that would encourage the achievement of the desired goals is often a major reason for failure.

Leaders must also be willing to understand how their behaviours are affecting the company culture and should not expect procedures and policies to correct undesirable behaviour if this is not addressed. Employees are in the best position to point out weaknesses in the policies and procedures, and very often it is those who are most resistant to change that give the most valuable feedback. However, feedback from employees can only be useful if there is no fear of reprisal from colleagues and superiors. Management should thus create environments where employees will feel inclined to give honest feedback which would have ordinarily been kept under the rug and remain an obstacle in achieving positive cultural change.

Organisational Culture is always changing whether we try to alter it or not as everyone contributes to it. However, leaders who are best able to get their subordinates on the same page are those who are able to rally their subordinates around a bigger purpose. In such organisations this higher purpose becomes a major part of every employee’s identity. For example, a Doctor and Janitor in a hospital may have two entirely different functions but if they both are inspired to conceive that their main purpose is to save lives, it is more likely to improve their overall productivity.

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