Changing Corporate Culture

Culture. What is it? We all think we know what culture means but do we really? Do we understand the impact that corporate culture has on us as individuals. Furthermore, as individuals, do we understand the impact we have on organisational performance? What are the factors that influence the culture of an organisation – and how can culture be changed, if required?

Perhaps we need to explore the following questions:
What is culture and why change it?
What should change?
How do you change?
Who changes?

What is Culture and How Does it Affect Business Success?

The culture and values of an organisation are widely acknowledged as having a key influence on its performance and effectiveness. This influence can be both positive and negative and may impact on both harder quantitative aspects of organisational performance (e.g. productivity, profitability) and softer qualitative aspects (e.g. staff morale, motivation and team work).

The aim of any organisational culture change project should be to provide a structured framework and vocabulary for understanding, interpreting and managing corporate culture and values. It should aim to provide a reliable and accurate benchmark of the organisation’s perceived culture and values at any given time, hence establishing a platform for decision making and future action planning.

The invisibility of corporate culture belies its importance. For all its deep rootedness, culture is not uniform or static. So changing corporate culture is certainly not straightforward, but can be the right response to the need for generalised change to improve overall organisational efficiency.

How to Develop a Strategy for Change

Most organisations have a desire at some time to change or “improve” their corporate culture. Common reasons for change can include the development of a customer focused culture, improving effective team performance, establishing an empowered culture, an entrepreneurial culture, a learning culture, a cost conscious culture, a green culture and so on.

Gerry Johnson has developed a model of culture called the “cultural web”. He talks of the manifestations of culture as being:

Stories: The past events and people talked about inside and outside the company.

Rituals and Routines: The daily behaviour and actions of people that signal acceptable behaviour.

Symbols: The visual representations of the company including logos, how plush the offices are, and the formal or informal dress codes.

Organisational Structure: This includes both the structure defined by the organisation chart, and the unwritten lines of power and influence that indicate whose contributions are most valued.

Control Systems: The ways in which the organisation is controlled.

Power Structures: The pockets of real power in the company.

Looking at any of these areas in isolation would not be constructive. Nor would taking and addressing these issues individually. A strong culture change programme addresses all of these issues at the same time and in great depth.

How to Influence Organisational Culture Change

One accepted way of changing the culture of an organisation is to define what the culture is at the moment, create a vision for the desired culture and then develop and implement a compelling and motivating plan to move towards the new desired state. Defining organisational values and desired behaviours helps to demonstrate how the people in the organisation can support the achievement of the vision. Business and cultural change need to go hand-in hand, aligning culture with organisational strategy, goals and vision. Ultimately, however, it is the link to behaviour and underpinning values which is the most enduring.


Lindsay Dubock
Chief Executive Officer, Adcurata Limited
Follow Lindsay on Google Plus

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