Friday, February 08, 2008

Changing Corporate Culture

If you have ever been a part of a company, organization, team, group, church, etc., you know that there are certain cultural values that permeate these places. Though often unstated, it is clear what is important to those in the organization by the way they talk, how they dress and what they spend their time doing.

I work in a very large organization. Campus Crusade for Christ is the largest missions agency in the world with over 27,000 full-time missionaries in close to 200 countries. We are not small by any means. And just like any organization, we have a "Crusade culture." There is insider language that we use, jokes that we tell, people we admire and things that we do.

"Corporate culture" is a natural part of any people group or organization. It is not bad in and of itself. Campus Crusade has a huge emphasis on a commitment to helping to fulfill the Great Commission. This is good. But we also have a certain approach to go about this that can be detrimental when we resist change or when we exclude outsiders unnecessarily.

Thanks to my friend, Keith, I read this article, The Cultural Web: Aligning your organization's culture with strategy. In order to continue to move forward, we must recognize our own culture and evaluate what is positive and what must change. The Elements of the "Cultural Web" stated in the article are as follows:

Stories – The past events and people talked about inside and outside the company. Who and what the company chooses to immortalize says a great deal about what it values, and perceives as great behavior.
- What stories do people currently tell about your organization?
- What reputation is communicated amongst your customers and other stakeholders?
- What do these stories say about what your organization believes in?
- What do employees talk about when they think of the history of the company?
- What stories do they tell new people who join the company?
- What heroes, villains and mavericks appear in these stories?

Rituals and Routines – The daily behavior and actions of people that signal acceptable behavior. This determines what is expected to happen in given situations, and what is valued by management.
- What do customers expect when they walk in?
- What do employees expect?
- What would be immediately obvious if changed?
- What behavior do these routines encourage?
- When a new problem is encountered, what rules do people apply when they solve it?
- What core beliefs do these rituals reflect?

Symbols – The visual representations of the company including logos, how plush the offices are, and the formal or informal dress codes.
- Is company-specific jargon or language used? How well known and usable by all is this?
- Are there any status symbols used?
- What image is associated with your organization, looking at this from the separate
viewpoints of clients and staff?

Organizational Structure –
This includes both the structure defined by the organization chart, and the unwritten lines of power and influence that indicate whose contributions are most valued.
- Is the structure flat or hierarchical? Formal or informal? Organic or mechanistic?
- Where are the formal lines of authority?
- Are there informal lines?

Control Systems –
The ways that the organization is controlled. These include financial systems, quality systems, and rewards (including the way they are measured and distributed within the organization.)
- What process or procedure has the strongest controls? Weakest controls?
- Is the company generally loosely or tightly controlled?
- Do employees get rewarded for good work or penalized for poor work?
- What reports are issued to keep control of operations, finance, etc...?

Power Structures –
The pockets of real power in the company. This may involve one or two key senior executives, a whole group of executives, or even a department. The key is that these people have the greatest amount of influence on decisions, operations, and strategic direction.
- Who has the real power in the organization?
- What do these people believe and champion within the organization?
- Who makes or influences decisions?
- How is this power used or abused?

No matter what group we may apply these questions to, I think it is helpful to continue to examine what is true of us in order to continue to improve our effectiveness.


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