We have previously introduced what organisational culture is, its elements, benefits and dimensions. We will now conclude the series by discussing a few measures of building a great organisational culture.
In working to build a great culture for your organisation, one crucial thing to keep in mind, on conceptualisation and practices, is that whatever measures you plan to take should be in support of your mission, pursuit of your vision and in congruence with your values. Second thing to be aware of is that the measures to take will generally fall between two major groups of variables. One group of variables has to do with the technical skills of the members of the organisation and their potentials for further development. The second group of variables has to do with the emotional competences of the members. The first group is required for people to be able to do what needs to be done while the second creates the convivial environment required to allow the first to flourish.
Specifically, some measures you will need to take to develop a great culture for your organisation will include the following:
Understand what you want to be: To help build a great organisational culture, you need to first be clear exactly what you stand for and what your company ought to be. Your company needs to be identified not just by its products but also its culture (read: what it stands for and how it does what it does). Certain organisations are known for their great customer service whilst others may be known for their innovation. Be clear about what you want to be identified as and ensure that the minds of all your stakeholders are permanently etched with a bias for living the chosen brand cause and identity.
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Be clear about your purpose: Unfortunately, and unwisely, many entrepreneurs just think the purpose of their business is ‘to make money’. While the money is important and desirable, this mindset is akin to putting the cart before the horse. Instead, what we need is to be clear about what our purpose is and the value our purpose is to deliver. It is only on these foundations that we can stand to make the money. In addition, having a clear purpose and value proposition are required to help you conceptualise and build the right success culture.
Attract the right stakeholders: Organisations operate with various stakeholders working together on different issues. These stakeholders may have similar or opposing expectations and aspirations. To be able to conceptualise, build and entrench a desirable culture, it is imperative to get the ‘right’ stakeholders with similar values and dreams. However, this should not be confused with desirable diversity in idiosyncrasies, experiences, knowledge, skills etc. that can actually help enrich the culture.
Build your organisational tribe: Building an organisational culture is like ‘creating’ your own tribe. You need to be able to ‘speak a common language’ and have standards of dealing with each other internally and with others outside. ‘Speaking a common language’ is about being on the same page on principles, values and priorities. That means issues to do with ethics are settled even as each member may have their leeway on how to legitimately get things done. Speaking the same language means that communications lines are always open, truthful and complete.
Building an organisational tribe also means you create ‘listening posts’ within the organisation for stakeholder inputs. Listening posts are all the legitimate ways and platforms through which you get to know what you need to know from various sources to do what may need to be done. Listening posts might be departmental meetings, corporate meetings or staff weekend get together.
Foster social connections: At our subconscious levels, human beings place a high premium on relationships. Successful companies, therefore, leverage on that to build success cultures. When employees see each other as colleagues having the same values and working together for common purposes, great things can be accomplished with less resources. You can help your employees develop effective working relationships by giving them opportunities to know and understand each other in less formal circumstances. This can be through activities such as employees getting together for lunch or dinner, organising sporting events, etc.
Encourage positivity: Ultimately, all great cultures are aimed at achieving certain objectives. Achieving these objectives requires a conducive environment in which members can put in their best. To build a conducive environment, you will need to encourage positivity and a ‘can do’ attitude. This will entail helping to further develop the technical skills of your people as well as sharpening their social skills, such as in expressing gratitude, providing support to others, etc.
Don’t punish innocent mistakes: People are fallible and do make mistakes. If you are a company that wants to always do better, chances are that your people will make mistakes along the line. The way we respond to those mistakes tells our people how we are in handling the possible unwanted fallouts of striving to do things better and differently. If we blindly punish mistakes regardless of extenuating intentions, objectives and realities, we can easily force people back into their shells, which will be detrimental to our desired identity in the long run. Rather, we should take mistakes as vehicles of learning and doing better individually and collectively. Without some psychological safety net from errors, your staff will not put in their best.
Recognise efforts and results: A law of nature is that we have to put in some effort before we can achieve some desired results. But we don’t necessarily and always achieve the desired results from our efforts due to several possible reasons. To continue to enhance our chances of getting the results we desire, we have to wisely find ways of rewarding our people for both their genuine efforts as well as the results they achieve.
Show the way! The leaders of the organisation are the ones to set the standards and the pace at which values are entrenched and a culture is built. You have to show the way you speak, are truthful, transparent, empathetic, authentic, strive to solve problems, support other colleagues, etc. Other things to do include encouraging a ‘work-life balance’, reminding employees that their work matters; getting employees to be cultural ambassadors, taking care of your people; providing the technologies that will ease and support what your people do; and regardless of the size of your organisation, making it nimble and agile.
This brings us to the end of this series. Next week we will take up End of Year Planning.