title:Understanding Corporate Culture author:Debra Lea Thorsen source_url:http://www.articlecity.com/articles/business_and_finance/article_4969.shtml date_saved:2007-07-25 12:30:07 category:business_and_finance article:

Culture: n 1. natural phenomenon that is created whenever a group of
people come together to collaborate; 2. foundation for all decisions and
actions within an organization; 3. the way things are around here.

Every time people come together with a shared purpose, culture is
created. This group of people could be a family, neighborhood, project
team, or company. Culture is automatically created out of the combined
thoughts, energies, and attitudes of the people in the group.

I often compare culture to electricity. Culture is an energy force
that becomes woven through the thinking, behavior, and identity of those
within the group. Culture is powerful and invisible and its
manifestations are far reaching. Culture determines a company?s dress
code, work environment, work hours, rules for getting ahead and getting
promoted, how the business world is viewed, what is valued, who is
valued, and much more.

Culture shows up in both visible and invisible ways. Some
manifestations of this energy field called “culture” are easy to
observe. You can see the dress code, work environment, perks, and titles
in a company. This is the surface layer of culture. These are only some
of the visible manifestations of a culture.

The far more powerful aspects of culture are invisible. The cultural
core is composed of the beliefs, values, standards, paradigms,
worldviews, moods, internal conversations, and private conversations of
the people that are part of the group. This is the foundation for all
actions and decisions within a team, department, or organization.

Visible Manifestations of Culture
?Dress Code
?Work Environment
?Work/Life Balance
?Titles & Job Descriptions
?Organizational Structure

Invisible Manifestations of Culture
?Private Conversations (with self or confidants)
?Invisible Rules
?Moods and Emotions
?Unconscious Interpretations

Business leaders often assume that their company’s vision, values,
and strategic priorities are synonymous with their company’s culture.
Unfortunately, too often, the vision, values, and strategic priorities
may only be words hanging on a plaque on the wall.

In a thriving profitable company, employees will embody the values,
vision, and strategic priorities of their company. What creates this
embodiment (or lack of embodiment) is the culture that permeates the
employees’ psyches, bodies, conversations, and actions.

The energy fields that make up a group’s culture are dynamic and
change continuously. Culture is created and constantly reinforced on a
daily basis through conversations, symbols, rituals, written materials,
and body language. It is the small, mundane actions and behaviors that
create a culture and can shift a culture.

Creating and sustaining a healthy, vibrant culture requires
reinforcement of the culture through daily and proactive conversations
and communications. The failure to discuss the values, purpose, and
rules within a group often leads to a culture that is at cross purposes
with the stated intention of the group. Poor communication creates a lot
of confusion and often a crisis of meaninglessness.

Since a culture is created every time a group of people come together
to form a team, a company will have many sub-cultures that exist within
its main culture. For example, the marketing and technology teams may
have different worldviews, jargon, work hours, and ways to do things. A
big challenge for today’s company is to create a strong, cohesive
corporate culture that pulls all of the sub-cultures together and
ensures that they can work as a unified team.

Most companies try to “fix” perceived problems by addressing the
parts of the corporate culture that are easy to see. Some quick-fixes
include holding Friday beer bashes and company picnics or adding fringe
benefits and perks. None of these actions will have a powerful or
lasting effect on a company’s culture.

So, if the powerful part of culture is invisible, how can you affect
it? Through conversation. Conversations have the power to make the
invisible visible. Language is not merely descriptive, it is generative.
Language and conversations have the power to generate a new, powerful
future and to create a cultural energy field that will support and
sustain this future.

The CEO and leadership team of a company have a powerful impact on
culture through their conversations and behaviors. Business leaders can
pro-actively create a thriving culture by understanding what culture is
(and is not) and learning how to have fundamental business conversations.

Unfortunately, most business leaders receive little to no education
on how to have powerful conversations that generate culture and actions.
Culture building can be learned, but it takes an honest commitment from
the leadership team of an organization.


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