Let’s first refine the definition of what it is we are exactly searching to refine and improve. One thing is for sure if you want to start a vigorous and broad debate ask people to define an organization’s culture. Two things immediately come to the fore as agreeable points that can serve as basic starting points: 1) organizational culture exists, and 2) it plays a crucial role in shaping how an organization performs its mission. There is little agreement on what organizational culture actually is, how it affects behavior and whether it is something leadership can adapt. Still, it does determine how it fits into the marketplace.
The discussion is fragmented because without a reasonable agreed upon definition of culture, it may be impossible to understand its impact on other key elements of the organization that define how efficient an organization is and what path it travels to achieve its accomplishments and how successful it will be in the marketplace. Without knowing what we are exactly discussing it will be impossible to analyze, evaluate and transform an organizational culture. An agreed upon definition is the first phase to solving any cultural issue that becomes evident in any procedure, it supplies a foundation to diagnose problems and even to design and develop an improved culture within an organization.
The simple fact is that culture is important and consistent. It is a set of obvious patterns of actions within an organization. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” This means that a great culture can assist an organization in doing and being excellent. The importance of an organizational culture is hugely impactful on an organization’s success. If a culture is endemic in an organization it will be a strong catalyst to the overall performance and strength of each individual motivation to become devoted to the organizational culture. It is exponential and one thing feeds the other
The overall culture of an organization is often the cumulative result of each part of the organization and strong cultures often tie their roots to a passionate belief in a common point of view. When a culture organically is created by an organization as a rallying point for its parts while still staying true to its business mission it tends to be an industry best-of-breed. These culturally driven organizations are rare and are very difficult to create from scratch and very successful in performing their mission while executing values that support the culture.
So what can an existing organization do to improve its culture and how can it be maintained and directed? Culture is shaped by motivation. Motivation is crafted by incentives. The best predictor of what people will do is what they are incentivized to do. We can modify some aspects of culture by enhancing incentives – laying breadcrumbs.
Sometimes it’s as simple as asking why. Why does our organization do the things we do? Are we following the path of best behaviors to deliver quality? Are we happy in doing what we do and how we do it? The questions to establish a cultural baseline are endless. Leadership needs to prevent bad things from happening, identify and improve good things, and innovate the mundane things. Culture is a process of collaboratively creating shared awareness and common understanding (agreement) out of different perspectives and varied interests. Many have referred to this as ‘sense-making’. This moves the definition of culture past simple patterns of behavior and into the realm of jointly held beliefs. This asks the individuals of any organization to enter into a shared ‘reality’ that forces an alignment of purpose and a common path to get there.
This definition of organizational culture allows for a common purpose founded in the knowledge of ‘what is’ and ‘why is’. This ‘culture’ is defined by the ‘story’ that create the narrative in which each member of the organization is behind and vested. A great place to start forming or massaging an organization’s culture is by agreeing on your (the organization’s) story.
Once the story has emerged it is important for everyone in an organization to know it and live it. The culture that has risen from your story is the control factor that promotes ‘right’ thinking and ‘appropriate’ actions in a scenario. It supplies the key to the behavioral ‘norms’ that should be maintained to attain what it is we are here to accomplish. This also allows for a focused attention on how the organization has evolved through the culture.
Organizational culture is shaped by and overlaps with other cultures — especially the broader culture of the societies in which it operates meaning a nursing care facility unto itself. How should leaders strike the right balance between promoting ‘one culture’ in the organization, while still allowing for influences of local cultures of a certain facility or community? That is where the client/vendor relationship is penultimate. The two entities need to be of common goal which often can be reflected in shared cultural goals and values.
It is important to check the alignment of vendor’s cultures when evaluating the success of any organization. Cultures are never monolithic and rarely stationary. Cultures are dynamic and often evolve and grow with exposure to internal and external pressures. It is imperative to assure that companies working to provide a common service and experience share and respect each other’s culture. The hardest and most confounding thing about understanding ‘organizational culture’ is that it is a never ending or evolving thing – a moving target. This mentality is very much like the teaching of six-sigma’s continuous quality improvement. The job of improving quality should always include culture.
Powerlink is driven by its culture and manages by its values:
• Get After It
• Attitude is Everything
• No Excuses
• Do the Right Thing
• Be Great at your Job
Powerlink is a group of service professionals who serve Hospitals, veteran homes and senior living properties requiring onsite staff or consulting services in maintenance, housekeeping, laundry, dietary, patient transport or facilities management. Our passion is inspiring people through great service. Powerlink would love to discuss your needs and explore how our cultures may work together.