VOL. NO: 49      DATE:
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Why Bother To Evaluate Your Business Culture

Culture is a concept that does not often feature highly in our day-to-day conversations at work nor does it often get mentioned when managers are evaluating corporate performance. I wonder why. 

As I reflected over this puzzle, I concluded that the intangibility of a subject such as “Culture” might hold the key to my dilemma. 

Whatever the reason, and I am sure there may be many, I can’t help but to ask three questions: 
•To what extent does culture influence the performance of a business? 
•How should a business determine what is the right culture to adopt in its market? 
•Is there such a thing as a right culture or a wrong culture, and if so who decides what it is? 

In this article I will attempt to answer some of these questions, albeit superficially. However, before doing so, it will be helpful for me to define what I mean by “Culture” as there are numerous definitions of culture and it will be uncanny to try an explore all of them in this article. 

For this reason, this article defines culture aptly as “The way we do things around here”. With this in mind, it is clear that the way a business behaves or organises its activities is an embodiment of its culture and I am sure we can all agree that our behaviours ultimately affect our performance. 

Culture is a very soft phenomenon and whether in a business or personal context, it is often rooted in a deep-seated belief and value system, which goes right into the very core of our mindsets. It is this very nature of culture that makes it so difficult for people to change their behaviours over night. For instance, the belief that certain positions should only be held by certain types or group of people, will ultimately influence the decisions taken by those with such a mindset but equally such a belief whether right or wrong carries consequences for a business or an individual. 

It is for this reason a business should continually seek to evaluate the impact of its prevailing culture on its effectiveness and not naively assume that its culture is fit for the purpose. Many businesses unconsciously embrace cultures that are undermining their ability to achieve their objectives and sadly are of the mistaken belief that cultures that work well in one situation can be imported elsewhere and achieve similar results. Most have no system of evaluating the extent to which their culture may in fact be adding value to or dare I say depleting value from the business. 

Then there are some businesses that religiously continue to follow cultures that worked well in the past, into the future, even when the future is significantly different from the past. They maintain the status quo even when the bottom line is seriously taking a hit indicating a need for change. They try to refocus resources and carry out fire fighting procedures rather than critically reviewing their prevailing culture. 

So how can a business determine what its existing culture is, and as how effective it is? The answers to these questions will give you an insight into the prevailing culture type. 

• Who are the main decision makers in your business 
• How are key decisions taken in your business 
• What do you value most in your staff and how are they rewarded 
• How is work organised across the organisation 
• What is the acceptable dress code for your business 
• What is the office layout like? 
The list goes on. By the time you answer these questions, you will get a sense of what your existing culture is. 

For instance, in an organisation where most of the key decisions are taken by few people with the rest of the staff expected to toe the line, a subservient culture will emerge which will ultimately put the company at a disadvantage as it cannot tap into the brain power of its wider workforce. 

Over time, a culture of staff dependency on management for decision-making will emerge and the only beneficiaries of such a culture are the decision makers who obviously are empowered and often act as little gods in the organisation. There is nothing to say that this culture is wrong or right, however, you need to carefully evaluate its impact on the performance of your business in an objective way. 

If you like the results on the evaluation, by all means continue with it, otherwise ditch it and go for something more robust and effective.

If you would like to take advantage of this do send me an email. For advice and support on this subject, contact sheila@businessservicessupport.com Sheila Elliott is the managing director of Business Services Support Limited.   http://www.businessservicessupport.com/


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