What is so important about culture?
In many of the articles and books that are published today, we see a great amount of improvements in different industries and companies using different methodologies and tools. Many times, it seems that if we use the same tools or methods, we should get the same results. This is not always the case. There is an underlying story to a company that excels in making improvements, and that is the culture. I like to think of the culture as the foundation to effective operation. Culture includes leadership, initiative, teamwork and all of the other nice words we love to throw out.
This is from the Wikipedia Web site on February 9, 2009: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture
Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning “to cultivate”) is difficult to define. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of “culture” in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. However, the word “culture” is most commonly used in three basic senses:
- excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities
- an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
- the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group.
The importance of ‘shared’
Now, I hope we are not looking at the fine arts and humanities here. Maintenance and fine arts are probably not appropriate to use in the same sentence. The second item could be related to the culture of an organization, but I don’t quite think that this embodies what I am talking about. This leaves us with the third item.
I think the interesting part of the third sense is the word “shared”. I hear you muttering, “Here we go again. Do I have to let other kids play with my toys?” Have you ever been in an environment where everyone seems anxious to pitch in and volunteer to help others accomplish projects? In these instances, everyone has a shared sense of purpose. Each one of them probably knows how important the others and their work are to the overall goal of the organization. This is a powerful motivator, especially when you understand that the success of the organization relies on everyone. That is also why organizations that are not doing very well normally have a very compartmentalized culture in which individuals think that others are “not important and should go away”.
“Communicate with everybody you deal with and find out what drives them to do what they do.”
Some simple advice
I am not going to give you some five-step process that will change your culture. What I will give you is a simple piece of advice, and that is to start communicating … always. What I am saying is to communicate with everybody you deal with and find out what drives them to do what they do. Shared goals and attitudes are not just sent down from above, but also influenced by the bottom or true foundation of the organization. Remember that the deck-plate workers are the value-adding group for the company and should be a driving force to set the culture and communication. The management and executives should be the facilitators of the communication process.
You will find that programs and projects will start to run more efficiently and the atmosphere will change. Just remember that this is not an overnight change, and it will take time and hard work. Take a bite of humble pie and start talking to those around you to find out what their purpose is and where their beliefs are leading them.
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