I once heard that your culture will eat your strategy for lunch. The culture of your organization determines communication styles, how priorities are set, and how things get done. In the words of Ed Schein, cultural management expert, “Culture is much more than just the way we do things around here." 

The particular ways that your team members think and perform result from the mythology, legacy and history of your organization. When team members don’t understand the organization’s culture, they can’t step in and be effective - especially since culture asserts its influence without our even realizing it.

Many leaders aren’t open to examining their company's culture.  What they have done in the past has worked for them, and that's all they think they need to know.  What these leaders fail to realize is that leaders who are successful over the long run spend a great deal of effort understanding and deliberately developing cultures that support future success. You will be well served by identifying your company's culture and developing a habit of intentionally cultivating it to help you successfully grow your business.

Take General Foods as an example.  It is a brand that was built on the technology of taste.  At one time General Foods' leadership team was told that food should also be nutritious, so in an effort to add to their product appeal, they tried to mandate initiatives that their foods be nutritious. But the culture was engrained in a legacy of valuing the taste over nutrition. Ultimately, General Foods made a conscious decision to stick with their culture, eschewing a large market for what their culture was best designed to do.

Consciously determining the culture you want to encourage and develop gives guidelines for future business decisions. In order for leaders to get a read on the current culture, they need to get a firm understanding of the cultural artifacts and values of an organization.

Cultural Artifacts are visible and observable. These are the behavioral rules of how things get done in a company - how the office space is laid out and how the work processes are employed. One client in Miami, FL, has a complete written history of first-generation founding through second-generation operations. This is a great primer for any new employee, and you should begin documenting your history (culture) book now.

Values are expressed in work habits and rituals.  At first, one typically learns the “espoused values” of an organization while being on-boarded. Later, they learn the truth. Any discrepancy can be a point of great stress for fast growth companies. A company may state that "Accountability" is a company value, but when missed deadlines, finger-pointing and unfulfilled commitments are the norm, the truth is evident.  And when that same company decides to implement a system like Rhythm, one that requires accountability, the leader will be faced with resistance and stress.

Take a look around to see what's going on under the surface in your organization.  If you don't like what you see, be intentional about changing it. Getting to the core of your culture will help you become an effective leader and will set you up for success in the future.

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Barry Pruitt


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