Rise Performance Group

What is organization culture?

By Joe Corona

Five organization pillars that will develop and reinforce a high-performance culture.

Culture is considered one of the most obscure and complex organization attributes there is. It is very hard to describe…… and even harder to develop.

So what is organization culture? Does it really exist?  Anyone that has experienced a well-developed culture knows that it absolutely exists!  It is a set of principles, values, understandings, and behaviors that are considered acceptable by a group of people. A group being defined as a church, association, club, or as most of us would associate with – our workplace.  Said differently, a culture is a set of beliefs and norms that with adequate leadership support and reinforcement become woven into the fabric of an organization over time.  Once imbedded, culture fosters sustainable levels of trust, support, teamwork, and collaboration (just to name a few) that members rely on to guide their behavior and drive performance. A well-defined culture works somewhat like putting the company on “autopilot” in that it can be relied upon to guide actions and decision-making in good times and as well as challenging times.  When most leaders are asked about the culture within their organizations, they are either not sure what it is, or describe what they would like it to be – either way, in many cases it is not what they think it is. Could that be because they don’t have the time to devote to reflecting on and building their culture?  In this day and age when it seems organizational focus is primarily on producing short-term results, developing culture takes a backseat to initiatives that produce immediate returns or feedback.  Culture doesn’t work that way.

A well-defined culture requires:

  1. Reflection– Developing a culture requires leaders to periodically isolate themselves from day-to-day “busy-work” and reflect on their culture. When you are in your normal routines, it is very difficult to see the forest from the trees. Some questions to consider are:
    • What is our culture? As leaders, what do we want our culture to be?
    • Does our mission and vision pervade throughout the organization or does it just look nice in our lobby and on our website?
    • As leaders do we set a good example for what we want our culture to be?
    • Do we know how our employees understand and connect with our culture?
  2. Employee Feedback – Ask your employees how they perceive the company culture. If they believe leaders are genuinely interested in their opinion, they will reveal valuable information about your culture. Employee surveys can also provide valuable information about your culture and identify opportunities to reinforce it.
  3. Integrate Culture into Talent Management – Weaving the organizations values, understandings, and desired behaviors into the fabric of the organization requires continuous reinforcement in your talent development initiatives.  Beginning with the recruiting process, the values, understandings, and desired behaviors need to be continuously reinforced in order to truly demonstrate how important they are to the organization. That includes training and development material, performance management goals and objectives, and continuous communication in one-on-one and team meetings.
  4. Perseverance – Developing a high-performance culture does not happen overnight – it takes time. However, continuous reinforcement will incrementally develop your culture and in time you will begin to observe your employees radiating the values and behaviors that you have continually reinforced.  It is amazing to see it begin to drive day-to-day activities!

A high-performance organization culture can result in a long-term sustainable advantage because well-defined cultures are the exception not the rule!  Doesn’t that make it a worthwhile investment?

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