I recently rediscovered a definition of culture, by Richard Branson: “Culture is a way of doing things that (sustains an organisation’s) founding values as the years (go) by.” (Business Stripped Bare).
It beckons the question, “what are our organisation’s founding values?” Do you know? Did you help to decide on them, or did you just inherit them? Was your induction into the organisation sublime, showing the values as living realities at the heart of your organisations’s competitive advantage? Did you even get inducted, in a way more substantial than a “briefing” on regulations and working hours?
Many organisations have their values entrenched in documentation, or displayed in hallways, but they are not engraved on their people’s hearts. In this case, what we feel is what’s real. If the values that an organisation seeks to sustain aren’t already important to their people, they might as well start a new company. It takes years to transform a culture, and the energy may be best spent elsewhere. To be sure, people don’t essentially resist change – they like new cars and movies, for instance – but they do resist coercion. Investing in people with the appropriate values and skills will do more for engagement and morale than the salary indicates.
Culture is not magical, but rather a collection of patterns and stories bound together into a volume, easily read by employees and customers alike. The fine-print is quickly understood, with no need for translation. Are they reading what you intend?