One of my favorite questions to ask when I first start working with clients is, “If you could give me three words to describe how work gets done in your organization, what would they be?” Everyone has a different perspective and provides a unique response. The words they provide are the building blocks to defining the workplace culture.
The reason I like this question is that it brings out the values of the group. People describe their workplace by using words such as fun, collaborative or hard-working. Sometimes the words are more limiting including bureaucratic, disrespectful or controlling.
How to define your company’s culture
The best way to get a handle on your company’s culture is to perform a culture assessment. A values-based assessment will get to the heart of the behaviours going on within an organization. Trust me, your employees will be happy to itemize the behaviours that are shaping and defining your culture. By mapping the responses against a culture model you can easily see where your organization falls on the spectrum of poor to great culture.
Several thought leaders in the field of organizational culture have built models to help leaders achieve a better understanding of the culture that exists in their organizations. Richard Barrett, author of Liberating the Corporate Soul: Building a Visionary Organisation, has created a values-based model with seven distinct levels that classifies how work gets done. A great culture will have work being done across all seven levels. A poor culture will be unbalanced with a strong focus on the basic levels and contain limiting or negative behaviours.
Full Spectrum Culture
The Barrett Values Centre’s research has mapped hundreds of values against these seven levels. With a quick assessment, you can see how you, your leadership team and your organization shape up across the spectrum of all seven levels. If you’d like to see how you stack up take this quick 5 minute personal values assessment.
Once you’ve had a chance to review your results, reflect on how your values may be driving your behaviours at work and shaping the culture of your organization. After all, it’s the beliefs and behaviours of the leaders that define the culture.
Your definition versus your employees.
Leaders have the benefit of seeing their organization from a higher and broader perspective than most of their employees. However, they sometimes work in a different environment than most of their employees. This can result in a disconnect of the culture of the company. Is your definition of the culture the same as your frontliners?
Armed with this information, you and your leadership team can decide on the degree of work required to create the right culture for success. Remember, all the assessment tells you is what kind of a culture you have today. You still need to define the culture you need to be successful which may or may not be what you have right now. Even if you feel you have a good culture now, is it good enough to carry you forward into this ever changing business landscape?
5 key culture definitions:
- Define the culture that exists today.
- Define the culture that needs to be in place to deliver the results you want to achieve based on your vision and strategic plan.
- Define the elements of your culture in a way that your employees are clear about the way work should be done. Give them examples that demonstrate how you expect them to behave.
- Define the supporting processes and policies to enable these positive behaviours. These will include your hiring practices as well as your employee reward and recognition processes.
- Define the action plan and how to monitor the progress of your culture initiatives.
Working on the definitions of culture within your organization will help ignite your culture. They can be the catalyst for lifting your culture to the next level. If you know someone who is struggling to define the culture of their organization, be sure to pass these tips along. When we all work together to create happier and more productive workplaces, everyone wins!
And just for the record, the three words I use to describe The Culture Connection workplace are collaborative, leading edge, and making a difference. What are your three words?