“Let me begin bluntly there is no such thing as the “right” culture and culture can not be fostered or installed.”
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Organizational Culture – by Edgar Schein
- Success of the company creates organisational culture. If the founders had a wrong set of assumptions about how things are, they would have failed. The right set of assumptions is relative to the business environment. The longer the company is successful, the more stable the culture becomes.
- Pronouncements that we must change our culture either will be denied or cause levels of anxiety that trigger intense resistance to change. Therefore, you will fail if you take culture head on.
- If the present culture is dysfunctional, or out of line with current environmental realities, then take these steps:
- Start with what the business problem is. The issue is not about culture, but about the mission of the organisation and whether it is being fulfilled.
- Figure out what needs to be done strategically and tactically to solve the business problem. What does the organisation need to do concretely to solve its survival or growth problems?
- When there is clear consensus on what needs to be done, examine the existing culture to find out how present tacit assumptions would aid or hinder that. Some parts of the culture may be fine, or certain subcultures within the organization maybe fine.
- Focus on those cultural elements that will help you get to where you need to go. It is easier to build up the strengths of a culture than to change dysfunctional elements. The diversity of a culture and its subcultures almost always have strengths to leverage.
- Identify the culture carriers who see the new direction and feel comfortable moving in that direction. This helps create role models, these people are often found in subcultures or in marginal roles in the organisation.
- Build change teams around the new culture carriers. Different parts of the organisation, because of environmental needs, may have to go in a different directions to produce the desired changes in thinking and acting.
- Top management must adjust the reward, incentive and control systems to be aligned with the new strategy.
- Ultimately the structures and routine processes of the organisation must also be brought into alignment with the desired new directions.
- All of this takes a great deal of time and energy across many layers of management and many task forces and change teams. It is fueled by the need for a solution to a clear business problem. Culture change occurs as a by-product of fixing fundamental problems.
- If the culture prevents correcting the business strategy, that culture will be broken by destroying the group that carries the culture. That means firing a lot of people, or the organization will die.
- Culture is not a suit of clothes to be changed at will. The residue of past success, it is the most stable element in an organisation.
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