The business world is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of corporate culture. In deciding whether an organisation needs to change its corporate culture it is essential to ascertain:
- Whether it has evolved its own corporate identity;
- Whether that identity is one with which the executives of the organisation are comfortable;
- How to go about changing the existing culture where it is considered necessary to do so.
In this article we look at the first of these three prerequisites to changing corporate culture – identifying the existing culture if one exists. We suggest that one of the most effective ways of achieving this is by ascertaining the perceptions of those who are most closely associated with the business from their own distinct viewpoints.
As a group who have been entrusted with the task of leading the company, its managers are (or should be) amongst those best equipped to evaluate the culture of the business. Different managers may have different perceptions and each one needs to be canvassed. It is unnecessary for a survey of the management team to be carried out on a formal basis but it may well prove to be beneficial to combine it with canvassing the views of the remainder of the staff team, as suggested below. The alternative is to use a cultural diagnostic which can provide not only an analysis of existing culture but also a gauge of success once change has been initiated.
Whilst not responsible for driving the business, the staff team is nonetheless involved in its operation and immediately interested, therefore, in the culture that it represents. A useful way of eliciting the views of the staff team on the issue of corporate culture might be as part of an annual staff conference. If this is combined with the survey of the management team it will have the dual effect of obtaining the information required from those two sources at one time and creating the impression amongst the workforce that their views regarding a core element of the organisation are rated as highly as those of the managers.
Of even greater importance to a business than its employees are its customers. Their input into an endeavour to identify an organisation’s culture is therefore equally critical. It can be difficult to find a means to measure a customer’s perception of an existing corporate culture but one method that might be employed is through the medium of the customer feedback form, which can include the relevant enquiry into culture. Another, in the case of substantial customers, might be through a direct meeting with one of the buyers or other relevant personnel.
Ascertaining how an organisation’s competitors identify its corporate culture is likely to be a challenging exercise. However, there are means of going about this through, for example, involvement in local business clubs and networking groups and trade and commerce organisations and participation in local and regional corporate events. Determining the views of business competitors requires tact and an informal approach is the most likely way of eliciting a reliable response.
Those who invest in a corporation will have done so for a variety of reasons. Most investors will have paid some attention to what they perceived to be the organisation’s corporate culture. It should be relatively easy to approach those investors in the business to ascertain just what that perception was.
An organisation’s external professional partners, such as its bankers, lawyers and accountants are likely to have been involved in its operation over an extended period. They are consequently in a strong position to identify the existence and substance, if any, of its corporate culture.
By involving these key figures in the identification of the corporate culture of a business it is likely that a balanced response, based on both internal and external perceptions, will be achieved.
What to do with that response is a matter for further discussion.
Article written by Mark Edwards
Director, Adcurata Limited
Follow Mark on Google Plus