Why is organisational culture critical to change?

Organisational culture impacts business performance. The culture of an organisation can be described as ‘how things are done around here’ – the collective behaviour; routines that develop over the years, how employees interact, the organisational structure, the governance, the rewards, even the way employees dress. In reality it goes much deeper, like an iceberg: the subconscious, underlying beliefs and assumptions that lie below the surface that are rarely questioned as they are less visible. These are the elements that can hamper an organisation’s efforts to adapt to change and ultimately enhance performance.

Successful cultural change – components

To drive change, organisations need to address some key components that are at the heart of the culture and which often lie at the lower levels of the ‘iceberg’:

  • Clarity – of the long term strategic direction, intent and purpose of the organisation. Is there a clear direction set for the organisation that personnel can align to at a deeper level and one of the greatest motivators of individual performance is to know you are making a distinct contribution to a collective purpose
  • Character – a combination of values, beliefs and experiences. In the same way these factors create the character of an individual, so they do for an organisation – interpreted as the ‘culture’ of the organisation. Equally, as the character of individuals drives their behaviour, that behaviour can significantly change when under stress. In time of organisational restructure, personnel are at higher levels of stress and often this is seen in collective behaviours from teams and departments. Thus knowing how to address conflict and gain commitment rather than compliance from people in an organisation drives success.
  • Identity – a sense of belonging is core to fulfilment for human beings. Shared identity encourages team buy-in and alignment. When added to clarity and character, identity is what leads a team coming together and generating this commitment

Organisations cannot force a culture. This is developed over time and by Emotionally Intelligent leaders and all leadership levels within an organisation.

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