Gabazira's blog

The Effectiveness-Lab

Organisation-culture hygiene mischief – Series 2 of 2

It’s apparent from series 1 that organisational culture is a vital part of an organisation’s machinery and its optimal functionality. You can’t choose, if you are a smart leader or owner, not to pay attention to culture and its hygiene issues. It’s an inbuilt ingredient in your organisation’s eco-system.

More often than not, attaining the appropriate culture hygiene requires organisations to change from known culture to new and initially, uncomfortable culture. Organisations can’t choose to do whatever they want and disregard what is right

Of course, the big question for organisations is: what type of culture-orientation do organisations want to have and how do they get such culture to work in a seamless manner, and be perceved by stakeholders internal and external, as hygienic culture?

Corporate culture is undergoing a transformation. As organizations evolve and reinvent themselves in response to societal changes, new technologies, and competitive disruption, they’re finding that hierarchical cultures of the past must change as well. And while the shape and impact of corporate culture is changing in the 21st century, the role it can play as a determinant of success is not waning anytime soon. As the researchers of the MIT SMR/Glassdoor Culture 500 put it, “To survive and thrive in today’s market, a healthy corporate culture is more important than ever.” Employees want to work at places that make them feel valued, and they’re more productive for it. When companies make grandiose statements about valuing employees but fail to instill that sense of connection into the management system, employees know the difference.

So, since we know that positive organisational culture is indispensable to the life of an organisation, we now get back to the question that was asked at the end of series one:

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

Well, organisations via their leaders and managers, boards or owners, may chose to approach culture management using any of the approaches below:

  1. A bold and establishmentarian approach to the management of culture, and the choice by those in power to overtly practice and enforce a culture that the owners, board or executive management espouse, good or bad. It’s not surprising that this establishmentarian approach to culture management is not always popular with stakeholders outside the inner circle. It caters for the interests of a few.
  2. The deliberate mishmash and deception approach to culture management – the owners, board or executive management purport to be sensitive to culture-hygiene dynamics at the organisation, say what is politically correct and present a positivist culture orientation to the external audience. However, backstage, the status quo like in one above, continues
  3. And the third and more contemporary and pragmatic approach is to be open to participation and inclusion of people outside the so-called inner circle to define and shape culture hygiene at the organisation. This approach is open to ongoing culture change and participation by others in culture-shaping discourse. It involves taking truth to power by those not in power, and those with power being cognisant of the win-win outcomes and accompanying signature value creation, from such a participatory approach

Of course, classic and progressive firms align to the contemporary and pragmatic approach to management of organisational culture.

Whatever approach a firm chooses, the question of how to best integrate culture in an organisation’s value chain remains unanswered.

And we borrow from MIT’s SloanReview in recommending that the best way to institutionalise best culture hygiene at a firm is to frame culture as a management system

Look at it this way, the board, managers and other cadres below them make decisions every hour and the total sum of all those decisions define what expectations staff and other stakeholders have at the organisation. We ask why extremely intelligent leaders, owners and trustees don’t understand such an obvious matter – but they do.

According to the SloanReview, when you frame culture as a management system, the values, ways organisations do things, and beliefs at the organisation quickly translate into the actions of those at the organisation, and ultimately, the social fabric at the organisation.

The managers and those below them need to appreciate whose needs and interests take precedence – is it the customers, shareholders, employees or other stakeholders? Employees should know how much free debate is encouraged about company business; how much innovation and exercising individual brain-power vs. follower-ship is allowed etc

While organisations can choose to institutionalise any of the above three approaches, we hope for all organisations to choose the more progressive and pragmatic approach to organisation culture hygiene and the institutionalisation that accrues. Choosing the less progressive first and second approaches only undermines value creation at the firm – it’s true that such organisations leak value and are ultimately the losers

Managers should see culture as the system to implement and weigh all managerial decisions – when this happens (with the caveat that it’s done via the pragmatic lens approach – three above), long term success accrues at the firm


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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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