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Team Development

When you walk into a restaurant you can quickly sense how formal or informal it is; how expensive it might be and what behaviour will be expected of you. None of this is written anywhere, you just sense it. It is implicit. The operating culture of an organisation is a bit like that. It is tacit or implicit. It is essentially “the way things are done around here”. It has been described as the collective personality of an organisation.

This operating culture influences not only the observable visible artefacts of an office layout and furnishings or dress code but, more deeply, influences the way people interact and behave with each other. It influences the way decisions are made. In some ways, culture is like an ice-berg. Very little is observable. At that deeper level, culture is about values and beliefs; values and beliefs that influence and underpin individual and group behaviour.

In the context of values, it is very important to distinguish between what are espoused values (those which are very aspirational and laudable, scripted to read well in corporate promotional literature) and real values (those which underpin actual behaviour). Understanding the organisational operating culture and the real values that underpin them is essential at all times, and never more so than in times of managing change. There is much organisational “scar tissue” in the corporate world to suggest that when change comes into conflict with the operating culture, culture usually wins.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” is a famous remark attributed to Peter Drucker and popularized in 2006 by Mark Fields, president of Ford Motor Company. Fields was keenly aware that no matter how far reaching his vision or how brilliant his strategy, neither would be realized without a supportive and aligned culture. Realizing that culture is an essential consideration in organisational change, the culture at Ford became job # 1 for Fields. He was aware that culture was the sum total of what people at Ford believed and valued. He saw his task as to replace a culture often characterized by bitterness, distrust, and fear. One look at Ford in 2010, and the rest is history.

Performance oriented cultures have been shown to possess statistically better financial growth. These cultures typically possess high employee involvement, strong internal communications and an acceptance and encouragement of a healthy level of risk-taking in order to achieve innovation.

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