Culture is essentially the way an organisation does things. Culture is something that is shared either in the organisation as a whole, or among specific groups or functions within the organisation. Culture drives the way in which people behave within the organisational setting. It’s important to organisations because the way it does things has a direct impact on the effectiveness of the organisation.
Culture is difficult to measure possibly because it is not a hard process that can be adapted and changed through the directives and policy. Instead culture is intangible, and is built from a mixture of norms, beliefs, values and symbols that are played out in the day-to-day machinations of organisational life.
Furthermore cultures are dynamic and change over a period of time, resulting from group interactions, leadership behaviour, organisational structure and rules of interaction. As people leave or join the organisation the culture of the organisation will shift over a period of time, the size of the shift will depend on the intensity of shared experience within the organisational setting.
Very often organisations will embark on business process reengineering or introduce lean practices in the pursuit of effectiveness but the outcome is disappointing. A 70% failure to achieve the goals of a change management programme is an expensive waste of often, high value, and high profile projects.
The failure is not because the methodology of the process improvements are flawed, but rather in their implementation they do not take into account the organisational culture.
For example, introducing new processes to improve forecasting and provide the platform for just in time manufacturer if an important strategy for organisations who wish to improve cost efficiencies and market responsiveness. However if the organisation’s norms, standards, values and working practices support behaviour in another direction the operational energy will pull away from the intended outcomes possibly resulting in serious damage to the organisations reputation and cost control.
There is no perfect culture that an organisation should aim to build. The culture of an organisation is a result of its past, present and possible futures. The right culture for the organisation is the culture that serves the organisations purposes. Culture can provide a key competitive advantage, but equally a strong organisation culture can lead to its failure, possibly as a result of arrogance, or complacency.