Building a Better Organizational Culture
This is the time of year when football fans like me watch for two interesting developments. The first has to do with which teams will get to play in “the big game at the end of the year … "
The second involves the inevitable “changing of the guard” as teams jettison head coaches and even front office executives in search of the winning formula. And it doesn’t seem to take much time to decide that coaches don’t have what it takes. Being shown the door after only two seasons is commonplace. Two years ago, one team sent their coach packing after only one year at the helm! Among the casualties this year is a coach whose team won the “big game” just three seasons ago. In the words of the immortal Vince Lombardi, “What the hell’s going on out here?”
A familiar refrain from teams who are convinced that they need a new head coach has them looking to “build a culture.” My team, despite posting a less than stellar 6-10 record under their first-year head coach, is nonetheless delighted with the progress made, citing — you guessed it — a vast improvement in their team’s culture.
With all this talk of improving culture, a question comes to mind. If there is such a strong desire to improve culture, how do we know when we have reached the desired cultural outcome? More the point, what is the culture now?
Ask organizational leaders this question and they will offer their view of their current operating culture. Ask their senior managers, they too will have a point of view. Ask line employees and, well you get the picture. Whether they see culture the same way is an open question.
The goal of improving organizational culture is critically important. Too important to be left to chance, opinions, or a vague feeling. What’s needed is a solid, reliable, valid, dependable, easy to understand tool for measuring organizational culture and tracking with accuracy improvement plans.
One such tool has been used by leading organizations for decades. The Organization Culture Inventory developed by Human Synergistics is an easy-to-use assessment that asks employees to rate a number of statements about what it’s like to work in their current environment and what they believe they are expected to do to “fit in.” The inventory is scored and plotted on a circumplex showing 12 behavioral styles, clustered in three major areas: aggressive defensive, passive defensive, and humanistic encouraging.
It’s long been said that “what gets measured, gets done.” For organizational leaders intent on building a strong operating culture, the best first step is to measure in real, reliable terms, where you are now. Once a baseline is established, an improvement plan may be put in place with milestone dates and progress monitored along the way.
For more information on how to measure your operating culture, and put in place a plan for real, measurable improvement, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.