Your Company’s Culture: Your Success or Failure Depends on it

by Patricia Frame on December 20, 2011

In the small business seminars I have done this year, many company and non-profit founders, as well as executives, have been quite surprised at the importance of their organization’s culture to its future.

Some had no idea that hiring, compensation or general business practices had anything much to do with an organization’s culture.

Others knew that they did, but did not know how to create practices which supported the culture they wanted.

Whether you consciously planned it or not, your organization has a culture. Many business founders say they simply had not thought about their culture or its value.

A new President I have worked with over the past two years is battling an existing culture that rewarded personal loyalty but little else – and this culture put the organization’s future in grave doubt. She has stopped the financial losses and made great progress in setting the organization up for future success.

The non-profit’s Board of Directors has been supportive of her ideas, although the founder left. However Board members were shocked at my findings in several areas. Many are still having real difficulty reconciling their image of the organization they helped run with the critical problems the new President and I have found.

Every step she has taken has been undermined. Progress has required a lot of tough actions and huge amounts of time as well as effort. Her case may be extreme, but I wish I could say that it was uncommon.

When I do organizational assessments, a common result is a divergence between what founders and CxOs say they have or want as a culture, and what their practices actually are. Too often, there is lip service to some ideals while “everyone knows that is not what really happens.” Or basic practices and policies have simply been borrowed from other organizations but are wrong for this organization’s needs and goals.

Perhaps you never consciously tried to create a culture. Often, the culture you originally developed is not what you now need. Or worse, the culture you thought you had created is not what you actually have. Aligning your culture, your policies, and your actual practices is critical for success.

As you prepare for 2012, take a look at your existing culture.

* Is it what you want?
* Is it what you thought it was?
* How do you know if your answers are truly correct?

Will the existing culture support your strategic and business plans? If not, what are you going to do? How? When?

Further reading:

Image courtesy of Flickr user FunnyBiz .

Patricia A. Frame is an experienced management consultant, speaker, and executive with expertise in human capital, and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. She helps small to mid-size organizations achieve their goals through more effective human capital strategy and management. She can be reached through her website SHRinsight.com, where archives for her ongoing management series can be found.

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