Culture

by Jo Geraghty and Derek Bishop

Common questions

  1. What is organisational culture?
  2. Isn’t culture just fluffy stuff?
  3. Why should we change our culture?
  4. How do we change our culture?
  5. Should culture be the same throughout the organisation?
  6. Who is responsible for the culture?

1. What is organisational culture?

Organisational culture is the way in which an organisation and the people within it behave. Sometimes visible, sometimes invisible, it can be described as ‘the way things are done’, or the DNA of the business. If you pull rank or pull together, put customers before profits or vice versa, it is the culture which governs your behaviour.

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2. Isn’t culture just fluffy stuff?

Far from it! Culture is what differentiates one business from another. It is why a customer chooses one business over another, why investors will lend and why suppliers will offer preferential terms. Moreover culture is what led some businesses to fail in the recession while others thrived, and it is why some organisations have a reputation for high standards while others face accusations of mis-selling.

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3. Why should we change our culture?

The first trigger point may well be the leadership noticing that something is awry. From increased staff absence to a rise in customer complaints or other businesses taking custom, the rule is ‘if it feels wrong then investigate’. Other trigger points include

  • A merger or acquisition,
  • A change of leader
  • New product lines
  • New technologies
  • Internal restructuring.

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4. How do we change our culture?

Culture change is not difficult provided it is approached sequentially. This means identifying where you are now, devising a new strategy and values, taking ownership and appointing change champions, and introducing the change. Along the way, it is important to identify and anticipate barriers to change and to work to engage employees in the change.

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5. Should culture be the same throughout the organisation?

Not necessarily. There are some aspects of the culture, such as honesty and customer excellence, which will be common to all areas. However, particularly in a multi-site or multi-product organisation, it is perfectly possible for sub-cultures to exist. These will complement the main culture while allowing for a more local approach. Strong relationships with suppliers and other outside bodies may also see elements of the culture being embedded in outsourced bodies.

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6. Who is responsible for the culture?

In a nutshell ? everyone. While the leadership may be the ones who have oversight of the culture, everyone who works in and for the organisation has a part to play in shaping the culture and keeping it strong. By their very position, team leaders, divisional leaders and leaders without a title all have an important role in defining and maintaining a strong culture.

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