"Culture eats strategy for lunch."
The culture of your organization determines communication styles, how priorities are set, and how things get done. In the words of Ed Schein, cultural management expert, “Culture is much more than just the way we do things around here."
The particular ways that people think and perform in a setting are a result of the mythology or history of an organization. If we don’t understand the organization’s culture, we can’t step in and be effective, since culture asserts its influence without our even realizing it.
Many successful (or previously successful) companies aren’t open to examining their culture, since what they have done in the past worked for them. What these leaders fail to realize is that other organizations also have developed cultures that have led them to success. The leader who is successful, has particular habits, and only hires those who work the same way as himself is well served by looking at what other organizations are doing.
Take General Foods as an example. It is a brand that was built on the technology of taste. The General Foods leadership was told that food should be nutritious, so they tried to make their foods nutritious in order to add to their product appeal, but the culture was a “taste good” company versus a nutrition company. Ultimately, General Foods made a conscious decision to stick with their culture, eschewing a large market for what they did best.
In order for new leaders to get a read on the culture, they need to get a firm understanding of the cultural artifacts and values of an organization.
Cultural Artifacts are visible and observable. These are the behavioral rules of how things get done in an office; how the office space is laid out, and the work processes.
Values are expressed in work habits and rituals. At first, one typically learns the “espoused values” of an organization. For example, if a corporate boss is asked why he runs a weekly meeting, he may answer “Because we’re a teamwork company” when in reality, all job evaluations are based on individual achievement. Now the new manager knows that he is in an organization that espouses two competing values.
Is your company a culture of innovation? Commodity? How about technical expertise or service? Getting to the core of this culture will help you become effective in the organization, whether you just stepped in or you are a long-time employee.