What is Organizational Culture
and Why Does It Matter?


Like the scuba divers shown above in the Blue Hole in Belize, this Blog “dives in” to issues associated with organizational culture and cultural change. Staff members of the Breckenridge Institute® post recent research, case studies, experiences, insights, books we're reading and performance results they’ve gotten working with organizations in the area of using organizational culture to improve organizational performance and sustainability.

 

Friday, June 09, 2006

What Our Research Is Saying About Organizational Culture

The Breckenridge Institute is conducting research on the formation, operational characteristics, and corporate life cycle changes of organizational culture. We're finding that an organization's culture is like its personality, with unique patterns of financial and non-financial performance that are revealed using the Breckenridge Culture Indicator (BCI). We are using advanced statistical techniques like factor analysis to identify effective and ineffective patterns of organizational performance, which subsequently provide a quantitative basis for organizational improvement and change initiatives.

The frenetic pace of today's global economy has increased the need for fact-based decision-making using scientific analysis, not just business experience and intuition. The research being conducted by the Breckenridge Institute staff promises to yield the kinds of tools, methodologies, and quantitative information needed to help leaders and managers make informed decisions and to transform their organization's culture into a more reliable resource.

9 Comments:

Blogger Unknown said...

Hi: I am currently working for a company that is about to make the leap from entrepreneurial to corporate. The appeal of this company, up until now, has been its strong sense of humanity, which comes from its owners. They are hoping to back off and let a general manager run the show. However, the general manager they have brought in comes from a market research background and we are a creative shop. The culture he is trying to establish is one in which emotionalism on any level negates credibility. My 34 years of experience in the creative world tells me that this is inappropriate for a creative shop, and quite frankly, somewhat inhospitable to women. While I can appreciate the value of muting emotionalism in conflict resolution, overall I feel uncomfortable with this shift in culture. I guess I'm concerned with whether I will fit in with this new culture if it takes hold.

7:45 AM

 
Blogger Breckenridge Institute said...

This is a common problem when founders and owners decide to back away from the day-to-day operations of a business and have someone else run it. It sounds like your organization is heading for a "culture war" that (depending on the circumstances) could drive some of its best people away.

Do the owners know what's going on? If not, I would make them aware of your concerns. If they know and approve of where things are going, you may have to make some personal decisions about what you're willing to live with.

8:24 PM

 
Blogger adman78 said...

I work in a company that is growing at a very fast pace. This year the CEO has said she wants 30% growth. In order to do this she has put a lot of pressure on all departments to perform at capacity and beyond. This new demand has changed the entire organizations culture and effectively transformed my job into something different than it was when I first accepted it. The problem that I am having is that while we are all expected to perform to this new standard, we are not being given the tools and support to facilitate this achievement. It feels like most times we are successful despite our efforts not because of them.
This current trend in the company has led to high employee turnover and feelings of insecurity and unrest among the remaining employees. The worst part about all of this is that the company and CEO choose to put on blinders rather than look internally for problems.

8:46 PM

 
Blogger Edgar Alden said...

Re: pencraft post.

It seems to me that all organizations require creativity and the ability to express that creativity in order to grow. Rollo May asserts that the need for creative expression is a human reaction to the acknowledgement of mortaility. Its a way that we may live beyond our own life.

That same creativity is required in any organization to allow it to live and flourish into the future beyond its current leasdership.

5:59 AM

 
Blogger Edgar Alden said...

An important point that must be added is that (9) contradicts (1).

“Good” and “bad” have meaning only to the person making the judgment. That doesn’t invalidate (9), though. One still must apply some criteria to themselves when making a decision. It’s important that ones decisions are internally consistent with ones own ethics and morals.

As we discussed in a previous PIT meeting, it’s important that one leads an authentic life, i.e., that decisions are based not on what the system says is “right” or what we think others might think about or view our decisions, but what our own reasoning leads us to conclude gives meaning to our existence.

Although (9) contradicts (1), both are equally valid. Item (1) applies to judgments external to our selves and item (9) applies to decisions internal to our selves. No, even internal decisions are governed by (1). We all learn new things, find our original thinking was wrong and grow. We should accept that fact when making a decision.

No matter what the decision or judgment, we should acknowledge from the very beginning that the reasoning is probably flawed, the assumptions false, the data set incomplete, and the conclusion invalid. We can only do the best we can with what we have to work with at the moment.

The new University of Wyoming president top ten items for people to think about (below) displayed that he was aware of the relationship age. The University Board did not bring in an egotistical, top down type, who would make changes that would only work due to who was there at top for a short period of time. Instead they chose a well respected administrator who had come up through the ranks that the staff well respected.

1. Most people are binary in their judgment. good or bad, true or false, black or white, friend or foe. Good leadership needs to be gray. Those who are bound by passions and prejudice are incapable of thinking gray.

2. Leadership is not a science... it's an art. You don't get it all from books...you learn on the job.

3. Nietzsche..."people believe what they sense is believed by others". How many times have you sat in meeting where one strong willed, confident, opinionated person swayed all the rest. It's easy to follow and we all like to do it. Don't allow this to happen.

4. Good leadership enables serendipity and inspires passion... which isn't in anyone's job description. The really crucial stuff is hard to describe. A group of ordinary people in a creative environment are a lot more likely to be innovative than creative people sitting in a stifling environment.

5. An important one.... be forthright in your dealings with others. Don't duck the hard stuff.... bad situations will only get worse. Everyone wants to be a leader but not everyone wants to do leadership.

6. Know which hill you're willing to die on. Leadership like politics requires compromise.

7. Einstein..."a lot of what can be counted doesn't count, and a lot of what counts can't be counted." Spreadsheets, budgets and flow charts don't make decisions...people do.

8. Seek out advisors who know more than you and aren't afraid to tell you so. No one has ever succeeded by surrounding themselves with stupid people. Frankly, I like to make sure that I have a good number of line officers who have been in the trenches... They know what it's like to take the heat. They also are willing to tell me that they are smarter than me... all the time!

9. Do what's right... we all know right from wrong. When decision doesn't feel right ... it usually isn't.

10. Most important.... treat everyone with the kindness and respect they deserve. Doesn't matter wither it the president or janitor, everyone likes to feel good about themselves. Everyone works harder when they know that their work matters. Spend time with others.

6:01 AM

 
Blogger Breckenridge Institute said...

Re: adman78 Post

It's not unusual for top managers to set corporate goals without a detailed, quantitative understanding of the business context in which they are operating, or the actual strengths and weaknesses of their internal operations.

Your experience is consistent with our research and the research of others, e.g. that over 85% of the root causes of organizational performance problems are in the structures, systems, and culture - put good people in bad systems and you denigrate their performance. So the feeling that you are achieving your goals despite the system and culture you're working in is spot on.

Our experience has also taught us that organizations are collective-cultural entities that are led, managed, and changed one person at a time. Sometimes change starts at the top with the CEO, but more times than not it starts at the middle manager level, moves horizontally across the organization, then travels up to the executive suite.

8:30 PM

 
Blogger Mike Hawkins said...

Having awareness of your organization's culture is critical to harnessing the power of it ... or changing it if it is not moving your company in the right direction. Many companies have problems that are dealt with in a variety of tactical ways, yet are never very effective. Until a company knows the cultural drivers that impact them, many of their programs and initiative may be totally ineffective.

9:01 AM

 
Blogger Greg said...

You said, "Sometimes change starts at the top with the CEO, but more times than not it starts at the middle manager level, moves horizontally across the organization, then travels up to the executive suite."

Can you point to an example on this? I've never seen it.

2:24 PM

 
Blogger Breckenridge Institute said...

Re: greg Post

One study that points to this is described in: Diane C. Coutu, "The Anxiety of Learning" in the Harvard Business Review, March 2002, Volume 80, Number 3, p. 105.

In addition, we have seen this multiple times in our consulting practice. In fact, the Breckenridge Institute is currently working with a DOE facility where this has happened in the last 6 months, e.g. change was inititated by tier 2 line managers who subsequently experienced positive change in their organizations' performance, then this change was adopted by top managers who saw the value and began driving it down through the entire organization with even more dramatic positive results.

8:30 PM

 

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