In 2006, Peter Drucker wrote that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Why does it even matter? Culture is the heartbeat of your organization.
Culture is values and beliefs in action and is a business and mission imperative. It influences, guides, and governs the choices and behaviors that act together in support of (or contrary to) the strategic intent of an organization and/or individual intent. It is dynamic because it is a manifestation of how people think, feel, their values, assumptions, relationships, and experiences. Your people ARE your culture.
A positive culture breeds engaged and happier employees who are more likely to be more fulfilled in their jobs and perform better. Strong leadership around establishing values and principles aligned to the desired employee experience is a key to driving positive organizational culture.
“As a leader, how do I even know whether I need to address culture?” If you are facing something that requires a collective response or action, you are addressing culture within your organization.
We define culture as values and beliefs in action to accomplish mission and business outcomes.
Culture Shifts in Real-Time
There are various domains of culture, and it is important for leaders to identify, notice and mind them with intentionality. For example, one domain that is relevant across all organizations today is workplace culture.
While the dynamics of workplace culture continually shift, those shifts were exacerbated by a global pandemic. Suddenly folks weren’t working in their workplaces (in person) or engaging in their typical hybrid models (now folks are working from home more than ever). For the first time, we have seen into people’s homes, met their kids and pets, and perhaps heard their dryer running in the background. Our ways of working together have evolved…forever.
This has all led to the hybrid workplace as a cultural evolution. While organizations have evolved to enable new workplace norms, employees are experiencing the work environment in unique and challenging ways. Here are a few examples of hybrid-induced cultural tensions:
- Inclusion: Some people are discovering that the hybrid environment is invite-only. In effect, people are more readily excluded when everyone isn’t together. And we’re finding it’s not usually nefarious but making connections and including the right folks has become harder than ever.
- Words of Affirmation: We’ve talked to several historical high performers that thrive on the accolades they often experienced in an in-person environment. Reinforcement in their value is proving harder to come by in a hybrid environment, leading to less enthusiasm.
- Human Engagement: Most tangibly, people are finding it hard to connect with their coworkers like they used to.
These examples place a given organization’s mission at risk. Just think back to our definition of culture. It’s harder to rally around a shared set of values and beliefs when you’re not experiencing a unified sense of purpose and connection you used to feel when in person and/or amongst colleagues.
What To Do
Positive culture change requires an organization’s leaders to take action and for people to respond. An organization’s senior leaders and its people are involved in nearly every project we take on – from customer experience to lead to strategy engagements.
For example, our Workplace team may be working with an organization to create a post-pandemic workspace for its teams. But, if that team is currently operating in a hybrid or at-home environment, key voices may get lost. Feeling unheard can chip away at even the most engaged and connected cultures. Ultimately, it may manifest in anxiety, not only about going back to the office but what kind of office they’ll be returning to. This makes it critical that leaders take the extra steps required to connect with their people no matter their location – this challenge requires collective action.
Our belief in connecting with leaders as people first sets us apart in a world where culture is often confused with “human capital.” When you take a people-first approach, it requires a shift in perspective. Leaders realize people aren’t a problem to solve, they’re the lynchpin for shifting culture, elevating employee experience, and achieving your mission.
If you are facing something that requires a collective response or action, you are addressing culture within your organization.
A Flexible Model to Meet Specific Needs
I believe our cross-Solution Area consulting model enables us to connect with leaders, understand their strategy, and implement tailored solutions that propel collective action. We have the capacity to help leaders and organizations beyond a single challenge; we help leaders recognize the cultural aspects of their challenges and build capacity in systems, processes, and people that result in evidenced-based change. What’s so exciting for me is that culture work presents the opportunity to create real and sustained change in an organization and create an even more meaningful and purposeful experience for its people.
You have heard from my colleagues Yasmeen Burns and Sonya Patel. We collectively believe our clients can enter almost any type of engagement with us knowing that we will think beyond the box to make sure we address any issue that would prevent the solution from “sticking.” It’s the difference between a hammer and a toolbox. Perhaps one does a specific job well, but that may be it. On the other hand, the toolbox contains the hammer along with everything else you need to complete your mission. The Clearing is the toolbox.
I would love to chat about organizational culture and change with you and the variety of its domains (Workplace, DEIA, Risk, Safety, and Security, Resilience, among others) – reach out anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.