We hear a great deal of talk about culture in organisations large and small, yet how many of us have an easy definition that we can use as a foundation for future conversations? Certainly not Wikipedia...
"Organisational culture encompasses values and behaviours that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization......organizational culture represents the collective values, beliefs and principles of organizational members and is a product of factors such as history, product, market, technology, strategy, type of employees, management style, and national culture; culture includes the organization's vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, environment, location, beliefs and habits."
Imagine opening a meeting about your organisational culture with that definition! How can organisations base fruitful discussions about their organisational culture on so many factors, especially when so many are impossible to dig into and pin down?
A simpler and more common definition is how things are done around here, which is much easier to process but equally opaque when it comes to actually helping leaders understand and take positive steps towards the organisational culture that they want. How are things done around here?
The most effective way to define and think about your organisational culture (either the one you have or the one you aspire to) is by reflecting on the behaviours your people display. The behaviours people display are experienced by other people, who in turn form an understanding of what that behaviour means for them (positively or negatively), and their behaviour is duly informed and instructed by that understanding.
This leads to the second key factor in understanding and establishing organisational culture – influence. The greater the influence of the person that displays the behaviour, the greater the influence that behaviour carries. For influential employees / leaders, their behaviours will not just be observed first hand, but will be recounted to, and therefore influence, other employees that were not even present as those that were present tell the story to others.
So the best definition for the culture of your organisation is the effect of all of the behaviours displayed multiplied by the influence of the person displaying them. Once you aggregate all of those behaviours from all of those people, not only can you truly understand your organisational culture, but you can begin to define the culture that you want to see in future.