For the past twenty years my work has been focussed on helping tech organisations shift their culture towards something more aligned to their aspirations and objectives. I have found that few indeed are the tech organisations that understand the role of culture, and its importance to their results.
The Role of Culture
Many business leaders over the years have emphasised the primacy of culture. Here’s a few:
The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture.
~ Edgar Schein
The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything. It took me to age fifty-five to figure that out.
~ Lou Gerstner, CEO, IBM
If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care of itself.
~ Tony Hsieh, CEo, Zappos.com
What is Culture?
Culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group from another.
~ Geert Hofstede
According to Ed Schein, culture is a shared set of basic assumptions and beliefs:
Culture is the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organisation, that operate unconsciously and define in a basic ‘taken for granted’ fashion an organisation’s view of its self and its environment…
It’s a pattern of shared basic assumptions invented, discovered, or developed by a given group.
~ Edgar Schein
The Organisational Psychotherapy Viewpoint
Organisation Psychotherapy asserts that culture is no more, and no less, than a read-only manifestation of an organisation’s collective psyche – of its collective assumptions and beliefs. Read-only because culture cannot be manipulated directed, but only via changes to those underlying collective assumptions and beliefs. (Marshall 2021).
Organisational Psychotherapy provides the context, the means and the tools to address changing such collective assumptions and beliefs.
The Culture In Your Organisation Today
Here’s a few questions you might like to bring up next time your peers discuss organisational culture:
- What does the term “organisational culture” mean to the folks in your organisation?
- Does everyone share the same meaning, or are folks “all over the map”?
- What impact does your organisation’s culture today have on your ability to achieve your purpose, your goals?
- How might you describe your organisation’ culture, as it is, right now?
- If you decide you need to effect some changes to your culture, how might you go about doing that?
- To what extent are your senior folks and decision-makers agreed on the relative importance or significance of organisational culture? And the rest of the folks in the organisation?
- What’s the impact of culture on financial performance (your bottom line)?
- What’s the interplay between culture and the way the work works?
- What’s the interplay between culture and the structure of the organisation?
Schein, E.H. (2016). Organizational Culture and Leadership. John Wiley & Sons.
Hofstede, G.H. (1991). Cultures and Organizations Software of the Mind. Mcgraw-Hill.
Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing And Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms. Available at: https://leanpub.com/memeology/ [Accessed 11 Feb. 2022].