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Entrepreneurship development: Building organisational culture (I)

The military culture is reasonably visible to the rest of society. We can see the level of physical fitness required of its members; The esprit…

The military culture is reasonably visible to the rest of society. We can see the level of physical fitness required of its members; The esprit de corps and the fixed rules on everything from making a bed to what to wear and to how to pay compliments to others, etc.  It is no surprise that less than one per cent of the population apply for enlistment into the militaries of most nations and even fewer than that actually get enlisted. The reason is primarily that only those individuals attracted to the rigours, intensity and regimentation can withstand what is desired of them and be happy about it. The military culture is not only expected of its members, it is literally enforced. As difficult as it might seem, the enforcement is required for the enhancement of the chances of success given the situations the military expects its personnel to typically find themselves in.

You may only be running your business and do not need the regimentation of the military. You may not even have the rights, beyond certain contractual terms, of enforcing what may be required to build a desirable, even legitimate, culture. But you have the choice to attract only the people that meet your requirements and can voluntarily help you entrench the culture. This organisational culture is crucial to your business’ success and it is our subject today. 

What is organisational culture? Organisational culture refers to the spectrum of shared philosophies, values, attitudes, customs, and practices that define and, perhaps, distinguish, one organisation from another. Organisational culture gives character and personality to your business as well as the intersectional field within which your employees will need to operate for desired performance delivery. Organisational culture sets the underlying belief and assumptions that guide the members of an organisation internally as well as in dealing with outsiders. It is a mix of socio-psychological and physical factors that create an enviable environment which ‘softens’ your operations for the achievement of your goals.  

Think of organisational in terms of the following elements:

Philosophies, beliefs and role models – These are at the core of what is important to the organisation and the members that join it. Often, individuals get attracted to organisations whose culture rhymes with theirs. Other times, the individuals help in shaping the culture of the organisation. Equally as much, both the individual and the organisation are influenced by each other’s culture. Regardless, the important thing is that either way, the net influence is thought out, planned, wise and aimed at supporting the achievement of corporate goals.

Internal social interactions – This refers to how the members of the organisation interact with each other. How do they greet each other? How supportive of each other are they? What levels of competencies do they have? How involved are they in each other’s official and private affairs?

Business practices – This refers to how individuals and the organisation conduct their business practices with not just their colleagues at work, mentioned above, but with their customers, suppliers, service providers, etc. What is their operating structure? How responsive are they to customer requests? How compliant are they with regulations governing their business?

External social practices – Beyond the internal interactions and their business practices, how do individual members and the organisation handle issues of corporate social responsibility? Are they active with certain charities? This is about what the individuals and the business might do outside of what is legitimately binding on them.

The benefits of building a desired organisational culture: Besides the value proposition of your company, the next most important determinant of long-term success is, perhaps, your organisational culture. From attracting the right candidates, employing and retaining them, to your staff’s punctuality, attending to details, keeping their word and responding to customer queries and requests for service, the culture of your organisation affects every aspect of your business.

A great organisational culture is what creates and nourishes core traits that are necessarily required for business success. Research suggests that companies with healthy cultures are 1.5 times more likely to experience revenue growth of fifteen per cent or more over three years. Such companies are also 2.5 times more likely to experience significant growth in their stock over the same period.

When organisational culture aligns with employees’, the staff are more likely to be voluntarily productive because they feel secure, empowered, and valued. Trust, teamwork, camaraderie, and integrity are known to permeate deeply and widely throughout organisations that build effective cultures. Similarly, innovation thrives as a result of the trust and the psychological safety that members enjoy with others within the organisation. Companies that thoughtfully build desired cultures are also known to weather difficult times because their people renew their commitments, resolve and make required sacrifices.

The most successful companies in the world are identified with certain cultures. Nordstrom and Ritz Carlton, for instance, are known for great customer service. They go literally out of their way to be of service to their guests and customers, making them feel truly welcome and valued. Other companies, such as Infosys, Salesforce and Amazon, are known for their focus on innovation. They invest heavily in research and development making them at the industry and world frontier of what they do. Regardless of the cultural choice and focus of any organisation, thought, deliberation and persistence are required to make it beneficial through the provision of a sense of identity, mission, and direction in whatever they do.

Today, we have introduced what organisational culture is, its elements and its benefits to an organisation. Next week, we will take up cultural dimensions and how to build a great culture for your organisation.