Gabazira's blog

The Effectiveness-Lab

Organisation-culture hygiene mischief – Series 1 of 2

We start with the definition of culture: …organisational culture is “the shared basic assumptions, values, and beliefs that characterise a setting and are taught to newcomers as the proper way to think and feel, communicated by the myths and stories people tell.

You all have either occasionally or severally uttered, mumbled or used the word culture, in the context of an organisation. Culture is a common attribute to organisation climate matters, good or bad.

When all is well at the firm – we are all happy at work and associate the good things and ensuing climate at the organisation, to nothing. It’s the subconscious way of enjoying the good, taking it for granted, and not attributing good to anything. It’s akin to the manna falling from heaven, that God miraculously accorded the Israelites when they were in the wilderness and most in need.

We could have used this blog to show the effects of organisational culture, when appropriate culture hygiene is prevalent. But what is good and enjoyable, knowingly or not, by those that have access to the good, we shall leave to them.

This blog’s focus is on the flip side of culture hygiene at organisations. When all isn’t well on the people-management front at the organisation, the word culture – or parts of its formal definition, surface. In the circumstances, people, knowingly or not, refer to organisational-culture

Indeed, organisational-culture presents in negative ways. And be it as it may, the word culture isn’t always directly mentioned, when things go awry, but the elements in the definition of the phenomena. For example, discord and the lack of shared assumptions and values, beliefs that others perceive as unsavoury and detrimental to the cause of human beings in the organisation, tension, pressure, disharmony, demotivation, etc

Sadly, senior managers that are supposed to build effective bridges for good culture-hygiene actualisation, confuse hubris and paper-statements for organisational-culture. Managers also confuse goals and at a higher level, the vision, for organisational culture.

And in the above hotchpotch, and the ensuing OD. myopia, managers present to the outside world a supposedly ideal culture-orientation, but that is different from what the rank and file know to be, at the company.

It’s not far fetched to opine on this blog that managers overrate the state of culture at the institutions they lead. The bosses aren’t schooled enough to build effective and sustainable culture-hygiene eco-systems. They are blind to the harmful effects of lousy organisational culture hygiene and choose to fantasise

“To survive and thrive in today’s market, a healthy corporate culture is more important than ever.”  MIT Sloan Review

Below are a few examples of lousy culture hygiene and its negative outcomes:

  • Employees lacking a sense of purpose and demotivation: Where there is no sense of purpose at work and by association amongst the employees, low productivity results. What organisations then get is the negative impact on the company bottom line, or for the not-for-profit, little to no impact from their work. Pay attention to this: there is a difference of a whopping 5% on stock returns between companies with appropriate culture-hygiene versus those without. Not-for-profit entities can translate the stock returns into impact
  • The consequences of lacking a sense of purpose and demotivation are many, but on this blog, we focus on: high-staff turnover. Culturally hygienic companies experience 50% lower turnover than their culturally unhygienic peers. Again, pay attention to this: the average turnover cost is 90%-200% of current employee base salary
  • And finally, with high-turnover, there is no viable system for knowledge retention. Gaps in knowledge retention systems translate into ineffective value chains and ultimately, poor quality outcomes

How do managers ensure that they prevail over appropriate culture hygiene at the organisation?

See you next week.


2 responses to “Organisation-culture hygiene mischief – Series 1 of 2”

  1. […] apparent from series 1 that organisational culture is a vital part of an organisation’s machinery and its optimal […]


  2. Thanks ABG; very interesting to note that we think of ‘Culture” when we are struggling and when most is well, few note the positivity of Culture.


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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