Saturday, February 04, 2006

Culture in corporate organizations

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Culture in corporate organization

I have found the aspects related to understanding and bringing about cultural change initiatives to be a very important part in creating systemic change in a company. I think that rational strategic design programs often fail because of an unappreciated understanding of underlying culture .Also political processes in a company evolve in response to or to make ‘capital’ of a company's culture.
Without understanding cultural issues many sensible programs such as those related to structural changes, TQM, re-engineering etc can easily be subverted. I recognize the potential causal role of culture in the success or failure of organization change and am for developing strategies and approaches for examining and redesigning cultural systems as an integrated aspect of change management.
When we think of "culture" we intuitively know what we are talking about but it becomes very difficult to capture and define. One should be able to look at 'culture' more meaningfully and deconstruct it to it artifacts, such as for example office layout, "who comes at what time to office and who rolls his sleeves" , rituals, stuff that we instinctively sense ,power equations, values, and behaviors coming together in a coherent holistic whole. Perhaps this complete view can be a starting point for us to look at organization culture?.
I believe, say for example, that while some companies celebrate individual contribution to an extreme ,however good one is as an individual it is important for companies to develop teamwork and team effectiveness. Now culture is what can make this possible. Cultural interventions through rewarding group productivity, Not celebrating the individual hero etc can over a period of time create an environment where teams flourish. I have seen scores of cases where individual actions, while very sensible, are often incongruent with company values. This always created problems for the individual and the organization too lost out by not absorbing the individual’s contribution. By purposefully aligning individual values with company values (as captured in its culture) I feel one can create greater workplace/employee value. I am not sure if I can extend this argument to shareholders and customers too but I suppose a company's culture does impact those dimensions too- perhaps in subtler ways.
When I take a walk down memory lane I can recollect many many instances when I did not understand the important underlying role that culture was playing. I blamed so many outcomes on "others", the "system" etc. My lack of understanding was expensive. Had I known better I would have facilitated both upward, downward and lateral communication about difficult issues, recognized political networks and coalitions.
A deeper recognition of culture can reveal mental models that are largely hidden from awareness, and usefully channel them to solving daily operational as well as more important issues.
I am a convert. I now recognize that once the issue of culture is addressed one needs to, with equal empathy, explore and reconcile political factors and strategic design. After all, dosen’t the Truth lie somewhere in between?


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