How should you decide your organisation's ideal culture?

There is no single 'ideal' culture, but there is one that is ideal for you

How should you decide your organisation's ideal culture?

In order to define the ideal culture for your organisation, rather than try to fit into or move within an existing and usually broad framework of culture (and there are many tools that will analyse your culture and describe it within a set of pre-defined labels), your ideal culture should be defined purely for your organisation, using language that resonates with your people.

There are three steps to follow when deciding how to define your ideal culture:


Start at the beginning:


Whilst the temptation is to start trying to find the right words and descriptions to represent the culture you want straight away (i.e. start a process of defining values), it is important to start at the beginning. That means reflecting on the organisational purpose and vision (some may use the term ‘mission’ interchangeably here). What is it that the organisation strives to be? What good does it want to be in the world? The answers to those questions form the foundation of your ideal culture.


Make your culture functional:


Secondly, your culture exists not for its own sake, but to be the best environment in which to execute your strategy. If for example your strategy is to differentiate your organisation by being number one in your market for customer service or innovation for example, then your culture and your people need to differentiate your organisation in precisely those ways too. Aligning your culture to the execution of your strategy will then in turn positively impact how all of your people strive to fulfil your purpose and vision.


Drill down:


From that point you are now ready to agree and promote a set of words and descriptions as your organisational ‘values’, creating outlines of what each means in the context of their organisation, as well as linking them clearly to the impact they have on executing strategy and fulfilling purpose and vision, for example establishing ‘customer service’ or ‘innovation’ as core values.


The final, but often overlooked step, is for the organisation to more deeply explain the values in terms of the behavioursthat are needed from your employees to demonstrate they are living those values. What does customer service or innovation actually mean for each of your people in terms of the behaviours the organisations needs them to display? Taking innovation as an example, might you challenge your employees to demonstrate that they have “looked outside of the organisation for new ideas that can positively impact the organisation in the future”? Building these behaviours into a behaviour framework helps the organisation describe in detail the behaviours that demonstrate the values.


Your culture should be your competitive differentiator, but it will be so only if it is specific to your organisation, is linked to its purpose, vision and strategy and if it encourages your people to display the behaviours that create the strategic, competitive advantage you need.

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