Why is culture important?

What is culture
5th February 2018
The YOU good, ME bad Paradox!
10th April 2018

Wherever two or more people come together for a common purpose a shared culture will arise. Whether it’s two people in a marriage, a few children in a group of friends at school or swathes of employees in a multinational corporation, when groups join up to achieve something they will generate and rally round a shared collection of behaviours, beliefs, values and expectations.

CULTURE TRUTH #1
When people come together for a purpose a shared culture will form.

It doesn’t matter whether you spend time explicitly defining what you believe your culture should be or whether you allow it to develop organically unspoken over time, every single organisation, community or group of individuals, no matter how small or large, will develop a culture – a common set of social rules and values that influence and define everything within the organisation.

And if culture influences and affects every aspect of your organisation, then why would you leave it to chance? Why wouldn’t you spend time crafting and implementing the exact culture you want to grow in your organisation? Why wouldn’t you be clear and explicit about exactly how you wanted people to behave?

You wouldn’t just go out and hire a random group of people to be your board of directors, would you?

How about we put an ad card in the local newsagents?

“Wanted – people with spare time to run a national corporation. No experience necessary. Travel costs provided. Position guaranteed to first ten applicants to apply.”

That’s just crackers! You’d be very careful with your selection process. You’d put candidates through a very stringent vetting process and a sequence of thorough interviews. You’d review past performance and gather recommendations from trusted advisors. You’d more than likely give them a lengthy probationary period with very clear expectations and desired outcomes before you hired them permanently. You’d put time, effort and money into making sure you didn’t get it wrong. You can’t afford to get it wrong. The future of your organisation depends on not getting it wrong.

Yet few organisations give the same level of attention to defining and developing their culture, even though the culture within your organisation will have a much more profound impact than the board of directors.

CULTURE TRUTH #2
For better or worse, your culture will influence every aspect of your organisation.

Your culture will infect every member’s behaviour AND every member’s interpretation of others’ behaviour and it will manifest itself at several different depths within an organisation: the space and the environment your organisation builds; values, beliefs and assumptions that people hold; the behaviours people display and their interpretation of other people’s behaviour; employees interactions with clients; the amount of effort employees exert; the respect people show for leadership and peers; the clothes people wear; the external branding; the internal branding; the processes and procedures; people’s phone manner; the quality of the equipment you use. The list is endless.

Everything is impacted by your culture.

Whether you like it or not, your organisation has a culture, and it will affect how every part of your organisation performs, so don’t leave it to chance.

If culture is not deliberately articulated, written down and clear to all. It wont be protected, so everything in your organisation will suffer.

THE 2P FABLE

I’m fairly safe in saying that everyone has experience this phenomanen some point. If you’ve ever dealt with a bank or a utility company or a phone company, you will most certainly have experienced it. It’s a phenomenon that I call “The Practice/Preach Fable” or “The 2P Fable”.

It’s quite common in large organisations with big marketing budgets. The basis of The 2P Fable is that a company prominently and deliberately articulates a mission and values via their prolific branding and marketing output, expressing something laudable and wonderful about their organisation and why doing business with them is uplifting and fulfilling and good for the world in general. However, when a customer eventually does come to interact with them, the verbally espoused culture bears no resemblance to the way the organisation operates in reality or behaves towards people. People are rude and the staff are unhelpful. The company shows little concern for customers and it is in no way uplifting!

It’s just empty marketing rhetoric. An unfulfilled promise. A marketing construction with no basis. It’s not real. It might have been once upon a time, but right now,

it’s just not true. What perhaps once was, has not been protected. The culture has been left to develop organically and reached a destination that isn’t where the founders want it to be.

The fact is that words are not enough. A culture is built and grows out of what people do, the way they behave, the actions that are praised or punished and not by what is merely spoken.

Spend time defining your culture and designing every part of your organisation to deliver the behaviour and attitudes that you want from your people. If you leave it to chance, you will end up somewhere you don’t want to be!

Defining and implementing a new culture will not be a quick process. In fact, if your organisation is large and has been around for a while, this process could take several years. But if you start on that journey and if you’re committed, you will begin to reap the benefits in small ways very quickly.

So how do you go about building a culture? First you must define your purpose…

Benjamin Drury
Benjamin Drury
A common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Helping entrepreneurs be brilliant! Building cultures and environments that inspire people to be great! Uber geek, author, experience designer & culture builder. Husband of 1, father of 3, real ale lover, rugby watcher, 49ers fan. (Also drinks lots of tea!)

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