Culture Bites 013 - How Culture Works Pt2 – Mission, Philosophy, Structures

Published on 17 Jul 2018

How Culture Works Jigsaw Pt2

We talk about how Culture is shaped through the organisation’s Mission and Management Philosophy as well as who holds the Influence in the decision-making structures. This episode is hosted by David Byrum (aka ‘DB’) and Dominic Gourley.

This is part 2 of a 5-part series on How Culture Works. If you haven’t listened to part 1 already, we suggest you go back and listen to that one first before this episode.

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Microphone Key Takeaways and Ideas

Leadership and Culture is a Two-Way Street
As discussed on a previous podcast, leaders both directly and indirectly impact culture through the things they do and the decisions they make. The tricky part is: the culture also influences them and shapes their behaviour and decisions. That can be why culture is tough to change. 

In this episode we are focusing on the first two boxes: Mission & Philosophy + Structures.
How Culture Works Model pt 2

Mission & Philosophy
How well has your organisation identified its core purpose and identity to its employees? If you were to walk the halls and ask somebody why the company existed – what answers would you get from them and does it align from the top through to the bottom?

It’s more than just the internal campaign poster about ‘why we exist’ which people recite from memory. It’s about truly understanding why the organisation exists and how the organisation wins for everybody – customer, employees, shareholders – and how it makes the organisation different in terms of its objectives and priorities.

If the Mission and Philosophy is not well communicated or understood: some people will be waiting around for direction – driving Passive/Defensive behaviours, others might be determined to make their own decisions and priorities from the Aggressive/Defensive cluster which could take the organisation down a path which may not be the one the organisation truly wants to go on.

In a Constructive Organisation, the Mission would be well communicated, well understood, and you could talk to anybody in the organisation and they would know what was important, why it was important, and how they contributed to the success of that organisation. They understand how they make a difference – driving their Achievement motivation.

Mission and Philosophy is linked to strategy – but it’s not the strategy. People might know the strategy… but do they live it? Do they breathe it? Do they talk about it? When we talk about Mission and Philosophy we’re talking about this living and breathing part rather than the strategy itself.

Customer Service Focus
The other part of Mission and Philosophy is around the organisation’s Customer Service Focus. What role as an employee do I have in helping the organisation understand what’s going on in the broader market? Do employees get feedback when they see people using the company’s products and services, and importantly: is there a way they can feed back that information into the organisation?

Companies who do this well send a message to their employees that they can make a difference, that they can gather, collect, and share ideas. Inherently this drives behaviours around Achievement and Affiliative. On the flip side, companies who don’t do it well send the message that they aren’t interested in people using their initiative or sharing their ideas and therefore people go to Avoidance and Conventional.

What if you’re not in Sales or Customer Service? Everyone deals with a customer in some shape or form. Sometimes it can be useful to take it back a step if it’s a long leap to the end customer. Who are you doing this for? Who do you impact by whether you do a good job or not? From a service lens: do I go to them and ask them how can I make their life easier? Am I encouraged to do so?

Who do we involve in making decisions? Can we make decisions at all? Structures is all about influence – who has what degree of influence within the organisation.

Total Influence: If Total Influence is low, then no one is making decisions – that can drive a Passive Culture (or people can fill the void with Aggressive behaviours to buck the culture instead).

Distribution of Influence: What is the spread of decision making across the organisational levels? The challenge for leaders is making sure that every level knows the decisions they can make and then giving them the responsibility, authority, knowledge, resources to make those decisions. If I’m in the frontline and am not involved in any decisions, inherently it is going to drive me to Dependent/Avoidant behaviours – and if someone did dare make a decision they might get hit by Opposition.

Empowerment: Do people have the necessary authority, resources, and opportunity to excel? It’s fine as a leader to say people are empowered, but if we ask them if they feel they are empowered what would they say? On top of that, it’s more than just decision-making power, do they actually have the training, equipment, and other resources to be able to make those decisions? If they don’t have the capability to make the decision then are they actually empowered?

Involvement: Do we involve employees in shaping the actual organisation? Are people involved in continuous improvement? In implementing a good idea? To that point in culture change projects: are people from throughout the organisation involved in defining and implementing the cultural changes? If people aren’t involved, you’re sending the
message to follow and do rather than use their initiative and create.

You have a culture. Are you in charge of your culture or is your culture in charge of you?
Next episode we look at HR System: Does the right person get the right job? How do appraisals work? How are goals set?

Get in contact with us if you want to shape an effective culture for your organisation:

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Organizational culture is influenced by a variety of factors, not least the behavior of the organization's leaders. To help organizations effectively measure their culture, Human Synergistics International CEO and distinguished academic Robert A. Cooke, Ph.D. developed the How Culture Works model in 1997. This identifies a total of 31 causal factors (organized into five categories) that are responsible for shaping culture and helping an organization move from its Current Culture to its preferred or Ideal Culture.

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Additional Resources

What is Culture Whitepaper

All Episodes in this Series:
012 – How Culture Works Pt1 – Overview
013 – How Culture Works Pt2 – Mission, Philosophy, Structures
014 – How Culture Works Pt3 – HR Systems
015 – How Culture Works Pt4 – Job Design
016 – How Culture Works Pt5 – Leadership

The “How Culture Works” model and other materials presented in this podcast are from the Organizational Culture Inventory®/Organizational Effectiveness Inventory™ Feedback Report by Robert A. Cooke, Janet L. Szumal, and Jessica D. Cooke, Copyright © 2003 and 2016 by Human Synergistics International. All Rights Reserved.

Culture Bites Podcast is Copyrighted © by Human Synergistics Australia 2018. All Rights Reserved.