Many years ago, I had two meetings with one organization over the course of one day. The first meeting was in their downtown office. I knew that it would be appropriate for me to wear a suit and tie to that meeting. Later that day, I had a meeting in the same company’s secondary office. They mocked me for being too dressed up for that meeting. Same company, but was it a different culture?
What Makes up Organizational Culture?
As an architectural design firm we have been trained to create spaces that are a reflection of an organization’s culture, but what does that really mean? There are such things as organizational sub-cultures. The basic foundation of organizational culture is based on the organization’s lived values, which drives their beliefs, behaviors and attitudes. According to Jennifer Olson, Principal at the Washington, DC-based consulting firm KGO, beliefs drive behaviors.
In a recent joint presentation that Jennifer and I gave at IFMA’s World Workplace conference, Jennifer stated that, “beliefs are nothing more than thoughts that have been repeated over and over until they become ingrained. What is powerful about this fact is knowing that beliefs can be changed. Why? Because thoughts that no longer serve the greater purpose can be substituted with new, more powerful thoughts. Identify the thoughts that support the desired goals. Create a mantra. Start a new movement. Provide people with an opportunity to “buy in”.”
How do people act? How does leadership act? Which behaviors need to change to help us get from where we are to where we want to be?
How do we want to see people act? Start at the top. Which current behaviors are working well and support the new focus and direction? Which ones don’t and need to be substituted? Behaviors can change through training, repetition/practice and reinforcement. Be intentional about the behaviors needed to succeed such as openly communicating, sharing information, following through, generating ideas, stepping up, forging relationships, etc.
Attitudes & Culture
How we feel about things…positive or negative…this influences culture, motivation, overall mood/tone/vibe of the people.
Culture and motivation influence the overall mood and energy of a group, team or organization. Cultivating positive experiences to allow team members to engage and interact can be a game changer. Setting rules of engagement and leading by example can be a great place to start. When teams operate in harmony, you can accomplish more than those fraught with resistance. Amenities and space can attract people to your organization, but culture is the glue that can retain them.
On the flip-side, bad beliefs, behaviors and attitudes can comprise the culture of any organization.
Culture is the glue that holds it all together. It’s a differentiator for any organization.
When beliefs, behaviors and attitudes are in harmony, you can accomplish so much in any organization.
A great workspace, building location, amenities and perks can all attract employees, but it can’t retain them. A great culture can help attract, retain and advance people.
Variations on One Organizational Culture
Given the previous information on what makes up the foundation of an organization’s culture, it is possible to have sub-cultures that may affect the way people dress, from one location to another, and possibly support variations to their space and furniture standards, based on functional needs. Common elements from one location to another usually will be the physical branded image of the organization, to include such things as the logo, application of color and finishes, and overall style of their facility design. Some organizations display their vision, mission and values statements, along with corresponding graphic and photographic images, in their public areas, which can be repeated from facility to facility to help re-inforce their organizational culture.
Organizational Culture Test
On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the best), please rate your organization in the following areas:
_____ Does your organization have stated values that you feel accurately reflect the way your organization is actually managed?
_____Are your organization’s beliefs, encouraged behaviors and attitudes a reflection of its values?
_____Is your organization’s ability to attract and retain the best talent in your organization’s industry a reflection of how well it lives their stated values?
_____ Does your organization do a good job of allowing different sub-cultures while maintaining a core culture?
A total score of 4-8 most likely means that your organization has a high turn-over rate and you should keep the dust off your resume
A total score of 9-12 means that there is room for improvement and that your management is open to suggestions on how to improve and reinforce its desired culture
A score of 13-20 means that you are working with a great organization where each individual is valued for their unique contribution and that the entire organization is working together to achieve the organization’s mission and goals
If you would like to learn more about this subject, please contact me for an e-copy of our booklet on Change Management at email@example.com.