Question: How does an organization change its culture?

What is Organization Culture?

The organization’s culture consists of an interrelated pattern of attitudes and beliefs that have been established over time. These are reinforced by the organization’s symbols, processes and structures and sustained by the behaviors of employees. The organization’s culture strongly influences the way in which organizational members behave. Culture can make a significant difference to the organization’s ability to adapt to take advantage of new opportunities in the marketplace, and therefore directly influences the organization’s performance. The organization’s culture influences the degree to which organizational members focus on understanding and supporting the needs of colleagues as they work together to achieve their assigned objectives and the degree to which organizational members individually and collectively are enthusiastically committed to achieving high performance levels.

The Roots of Organization Culture

For established organizations, its culture has evolved over time. Culture can vary across an organization dependent upon the management style that has prevailed, and circumstances that have influenced a particular group within an organization.

Each individual has their own world view which we refer to as their “Construct”, and they need to accommodate their own construct with the values and behaviors of the organization they join and in particular, the manager responsible for the appraisal.

The founders of Hewlett-Packard established an organizational culture that was referred to as “The HP Way”. This was a partnership, team-based approach to organizational management and it fostered creativity, innovation and engagement from organizational members. As the organization grew, this approach was undermined by new managers and employees hired from outside the organization that were used to working in a command and control culture which led to the demise of “The HP Way”.

There are obviously many views of how organizational culture can be changed. OLC’s experience over twenty years is that organizational culture changes as a result of organizational members having new experiences which result in them choosing to change.

We have found that a model we call “The Cone” is helpful in explaining how participation in “learning by doing” Process Improvement Projects can provide organizational members with new experiences and from these, build their human effectiveness skills and thus, change their behavior, values and the organizational culture.

The Cone – The Pieces in the Systematic Approach for Building a High Performance Culture

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