What culture are you from?


There is a very famous quote from Peter Drucker, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” 

If you believe this or otherwise, I will leave that for you to decide. 

Yet, given the context of a new model of work, one that might be a hybrid of working in the office and working from home, how does an organization reinvent or maintain their company culture? 

Better yet, before we try and change the culture, do we even have a shared understanding of how we might work to define our company culture? 

From experience, I have come across what organizations describe as their culture, yet the day-to-day reality can often be very different for those who are not at the top of the pyramid. 

There are several models that can be used to define organizational culture which can be very useful. 

That said, allow me to add my flavour on this topic by relaying a set of metrics that I think need to be looked at from a day-to-day and bottom-up perspective, rather than what I preached from the top. 

Of course, this can only be achieved by asking those who are not at the top of the pyramid how things truly work on a day-to-day practical basis. 

One caveat however is that I do realize that within a given organization, different units or different teams can have their own culture based on the reality the individuals arein. 

What I am looking to describe are the systemic consideration. Elements that are backed-up with established known processes, reinforced, rewarded, and punished behaviour. Formal policy, toolkits, or frameworks used in actual practice by individuals across the entire organization. 

I will endeavor to make this offering a series of questions that once answered, might enable us to compare different company cultures without asserting that one might be better than another. 

First, look at the organizational chart. Is it one that looks like a pyramid? Does it have silos? Or maybe it is flat going horizontal or maybe even circular? 

Next, ask if staff are implicated in decisions that impact them directly with respect to the work they do on a daily basis? 

Is there a lot of talk about innovation? Yet, does that talk translate to new results? 

Is wellness promoted in words, yet staff leaves, and turnover are high? 

How is work coordinated? Are people in complete control over their own calendar and agenda or is work assigned top-down? 

What is the frequency and structure of regular meeting? Are they ad-hoc? Who decides the agenda? 

Are there often times where leadership are in meetings, nowhere to be seen or heard from and not available when they might be needed by those on the frontlines? 

Are projects done ad-hoc? Or is there a standard approach to choosing projects and known tools and frameworks used by the majority? 

Are their layers of approvals required to implement any change of any size? 

Is recruitment done by individuals who will be working with the new hires? 

Are their strict working hours expectations? Is punctuality seen as a necessary element for the operational needs and/or considered important in the organization? 

Is training and onboarding a priority or something done ad-hoc or not at all? 

Are people in leadership given training on staff engagement, and engagement is done on a regular basis? 

What is the performance program and is regular recognition and praise given in formal and informal ways? 

How are mistakes handled? 

Do people present good habits or routinesor are people on autopilot and taking shortcuts? 

Are people using any time management tools and do those tools factor how human being naturally function with respect to their circadian rhythms? 

Who has the big offices? Are there spaces designed for regular rest and/or even meditation or mindfulness? 

Are their known decision-making models versus those at the top making decisions based on what they like or dislike?  

How are conflicts dealt with? 

What level of transparency exists? Are their regular secret meetings? 

Can employees easily recite the company mission and values statements? 

Is there a sense of community to share experiences to learn and grow? 

If staff were asked, what is the story of the organization, would most people share the same story? 

Do people have a sense of purpose in what they and the organization is doing? 

Is strategy set from top-down? 

Are suppliers and other partners vetted for their company practices or is price the only deciding factor? 

Are leaders encouraged to show empathy as a first measure?

How does the organization deal with mental health issues of staff? Is it done through HR policies and procedures and a binary model of acceptable and unacceptable or right and wrong? 

Is change readily accepted or is there often resistance to even the smallest change? 

To conclude, I shall ask one last question. Is it possible for an organization to have a “bad” or even “toxic” company culture from a staff perspective and still be very profitable? 

As always, food for thought.