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The Organizational “House of Culture”

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A Definition of Culture

For mutual understanding, below is a generally recognized definition of organizational culture:

Organizational culture is the collective behavior of humans that are part of an organization, it is also formed by the organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems, and symbols, and it includes beliefs and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors and assumptions that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving, and even thinking and feeling. Organizational culture affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organizational culture)

The primary theme in this definition is how people behave and act at work in order to enable and accelerate business success. If existing culture and business strategy are out of alignment, the quote “Culture trumps strategy every time” (HBR, March 2011) plays out.

Building the “House of Culture”

No single intervention can shift a large, especially global organization’s culture (Hammerich and Lewis 2013) and it can take years for strategy to cascade down to work practices and behaviors in the workplace. In the competitive environment of the 21st century where speed and agility is critical to strategic success, this process needs to be accelerated, and focusing on only a few elements that influence culture is usually not enough to make the shift. Senior leaders need to deeply understand the alignment – or misalignment – between strategy and culture, and decide which building blocks of culture are most impactful in making the shift and creating alignment.

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