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.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Focusing Organizational Culture Change on Business Challenges

We are convinced that the process of assessing and changing organizational culture must be focused on real business problems – issues that managers care about deeply. It’s a mistake to lead with cultural analysis and cultural change. Assessing and changing organizational culture is of little value unless it is linked to (and motivated by) one or more of these six interdependent dimensions of organizational life:

  • Generating and retaining revenue

  • The effective use and cost of labor as human capital

  • The effectiveness and non-labor-related cost of operating an organization

  • Key performance indicators that measure an organization's performance with high precision

  • The identification and reduction of squandered time and energy

  • A focus on sustainability, creating value, and making long-term investments in human, material, and financial resources

If the activities associated with assessing and changing organizational culture cannot be meaningfully linked to one or more of these six dimensions, then they should probably not be done. Diagnosing and changing organizational culture for its own sake is an academic exercise that provides little or no value to organizations and the managers who lead them. But if an organization needs to develop a new strategy or strategic plan; improve its execution and day-to-day operations; implement new IT infrastructure; seamlessly integrate business systems; build bench-strength in leadership and management skills; or improve the decision-making and consensus process for the allocation of human, material, and financial resources, then understanding how its culture positively and negatively impacts these issues is not only value-added, it’s probably necessary. The key is to lead with a concrete, tangible business issue, not the study of organizational culture as an end in itself.


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