Home Concepts Organizational Theory The Organizational “House of Culture”

The Organizational “House of Culture”

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Organizational Vision, Values and Behaviors

It is fascinating how many organizations I have worked with have powerful vision and values statements but do not leverage them effectively to shift or entrench culture and promote specific behaviors. In one utility I worked with, I was initially impressed with the visibility of vision and values statements in every conference or meeting room. But it was also interesting how seldom leaders and managers ever talked about these values. During my time on this project, this lack of attention to values visibly and impactfully played out in how this company engaged its customers at many levels. In contrast, leaders and managers in an energy company I worked with, with a very strong safety focus described within its vision and values, spoke about safety at every opportunity, including every presentation that the CEO gave, right down to every meeting. Short discussions on safety were held at every meeting held anywhere in the world (and I personally experienced this as far away as Kazakhstan). There was no question in this organization that the safety of employees was paramount. Many organizations also have a poor alignment between their articulation of organizational values and expected behaviors. Even when expected behaviors are clearly articulated, the alignment to organizational values is often vague which can result in employees being confused or simply dismissing these values as meaningless.

Business Strategy and Goals

In the quote attributed to Peter Drucker, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” the most common interpretation of his quote is on the misalignment between culture and strategy – if a company’s culture does not align with its strategy, culture will win and strategy execution will struggle. While this is clearly true, there is also the opposite opportunity under certain circumstances – leveraging new and compelling strategy to motivate a change in behavior and culture. For example, in the energy corporation I mentioned previously, top leadership developed an aggressive new strategy to beat the competition, but needed a major shift in culture from being overly collegiate, good to work with but slow moving to being more decisive and much more responsive. Because this organization had outstanding engagement and commitment from employees around the world, this lack of alignment between current culture and behavior was not a barrier – employees willingly responded to senior leadership’s call to action because the new strategy was compelling and exciting. Although the new behaviors were a significant shift in culture, the initial signs that I experienced showed strong support from employees.

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