Could your culture be letting you down
…Asks Sefakor Lassey
As the year draws to a close, several organizations will be reviewing the year with the aim of identifying their successes, difficulties and failures. These reviews help the organisations to draw up new and ambitious plans for the New Year.
For a lot of leaders they must answer the difficult question of what went wrong. Often, the answer to this seems lost on them because they have covered all their bases as far as conventional business wisdom goes. They have the right business idea and model, they have the best people supported by all the necessary and adequate resources required to succeed. The company results, however, do not match the capacity demonstrated. What is missing is what gels all these elements into a fully functional and successful organization – the organisational culture. It is that which determines how resources are deployed, how opportunities are identified and exploited, how the customer is engaged and a common understanding of the raison d’être of the entity among others.
Many business leaders either believe the culture of an organization is ingrained and cannot be changed or allow culture to develop organically. In many ways, the desperation around the definition of organizational culture sterns from the general intangibility of the attribute.
Beyond a group’s language, way of dressing, art law and other often tangible social codes, ‘culture’ has been difficult to define, hence vague definitions such as: Culture is the way a group of people live. The difficulty in pinning down a specific definition of culture is also present in attempts at defining organizational culture. Some have referred to organizational culture as simply, ‘the way things are done here’ (a phrase used very often in our Ghanaian context). For organizations that are very successful, the tendency is to define culture as a certain discipline, or as has become widely known, ‘a can - do spirit,’ Again all these are open to a wide range of interpretations and make measurement of the impact of organizational culture on business success all the more difficult. If culture is indeed critical to business success then like other business parameters there must be a way to measure and track its evolution. Also, if, as modern day anthropology suggests, culture can be learned and unlearned then it is indeed possible for organizations to consciously create culture that supports their particular business model and environment.
Businesses must deploy tools that help define their cultural imprint and also provide a guiding framework for discussion and action planning aimed at modeling a desirable organizational culture. Such a tool will consider parameters that assess the way work is organised and experienced, initiative and risk taking, reward and recognition, values and collegiality among others. Ultimately, such an assessment must be linked/compared to organizational performance and monitored over time to establish the strong relationship between culture and performance.
Anyone who has tried to bring about lasting cultural change will attest to the enormity of the task. Yet its importance cannot be overstated. The challenge is for leadership of business to sufficiently convince themselves that organization culture really matters and then commit to making it priority parameter for overall success.
The writer is a management consultant.
The Ghanaian Times - Page: 15 Saturday, November 21, 2009