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Saturday, December 11, 2004

Some Thoughts on Cultivating Organizational Culture

Hello there, dear readers! It's been a while since my last post. The Christmas Season here in the Philippines sure fills up HR Managers' schedules that there's hardly anytime for anything else. I'm just so happy that I found this time to write about my encounter with some clients these last few weeks who wish to align their employees with the culture they want to cultivate. So, here goes...

A company's ability, or inability to achieve its goals can be traced back to the kind of culture that is built overtime. An organizational culture, whether there is a direct attempt to cultivate it or not, will grow and dominate the organization. It's just like having a garden or a parcel of land. You can choose to grow vegetables, ornamental plants or trees in it, or you can of course just let it stand there until, grass, wild plants, and bushes that are not necessarily useful to take over the place. Whether you plant and do anything with it or not, something is likely to grow on it or happen to it. The question would be, is it something that you like or not. The same is true with organizational culture, whether you deliberately grow it or let it be, something will emerge out of it. The same question applies however, is it something that you like or not?

This is the challenge to organizational leaders and managers. How do you build an organizational culture that you like. My garden example continues to apply... When you set eyes on a prospective garden, you start imagining or thinking about what you want to see in it. Would it be a vegetable garden, or a garden of ornamental plants? You will probably even think of what kind of landscape is necessary and what plants to see there. The same is true with organizations, you start with having a clear VISION of how you want the company to look like in the future. You'd probably have a picture of what kind of people belong to your organization and what other people think of them. You'd also probably going to have some kind of purpose for your organization. Many call this the organization's MISSION, or Core purpose. Going back to my garden example, your mission for your garden or its purpose could be to add beauty to your home, or augment your income( in the case of a vegetable garden), or have a natural means to treat illnesses (Botanical or herbal garden). Your organization's mission could be "to make people happy" (Disney) or to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world (Nike).

Many gets confused between VISION and MISSION that they get them inter-placed. Here's the major difference between the two: your vision is how you want to see your organization in the future, your mission is your organization's reason for being... it trancends time, and people. Meaning, you can change your vision (especially if you've already reached and wishes to have a loftier one), or the organization's name, even it's make-up, but when you change the mission, it won't be the same organization. I hope this helped remove the confusion...

Now, back to the garden example. once you are clear about your purpose and your vision of your garden, you'd probably want to set some very important tenets to guide you in your pursuit of your vision and and mission. It is important to have this so that you can make sure that you are in the right path or that other people who may be helping you with garden are properly guided. I would imagine one of them would be "consistency."As in consistency in watering the plants, or removing weeds. ( I hope I'm not pushing too far with my examples :-)) Another would be " to have fun" as in making sure that you are having fun doing it (Now I'm pushing too far! ) In many organization, this is called CORE VALUES.

A core value according to Porras and Collins who Authored "Built to Last" is a small set of guiding principles and tenets that must never be broken. It guides your decisions and manifests in the behavior of the people of the organization. Take a look at this: one of Sony's core values is " Being a pioneer-not following others; doing the impossible." Do you see it?

It is easy to put together cute sounding words together to serve as your organization's core values for customers and employees to see. If they don't see it in action however, they are completely useless. The task therefore, doesn't end in identifying your core values, the next important step is to determine how they will be manifested by everyone; the leaders, the members, everyone.

Aligning everything and everyone in the organization with the culture that you want should naturally take more of your time than determining the kind of culture that you like. Everything must be cristal clear to people. They must know what is expected of them and what they can expect from you and the other people in the organization. Your desired culture must show in the way everyone in the organization make everyday decisions. It must show in how employees are hired and fired, rewarded and disciplined. Lastly, people must see that they belong by seeing personal alignment with the company's culture, meaning, they see themselves in the company's vision, they are inspired by the mission and believe in the company's core values.

The biggest stumbling block to culture building is inconsistency. When organizational leaders say something and show the completely opposite thing, they set themselves up for member cynycism. Imagine what kind of culture will emerge out of it. You might end up telling people, hey look, here's my vegetable garden and people will say, where? I can't see it.

Just my two cents worth...

If you need help with your organizational culture building, I'll be to oblige!

Till next!

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