Building Culture | All organizations go through a lifecycle of change, starting with courtship and ending in death. At each stage, opportunities and threats abound. Navigating through the stages is essential for growth, prosperity, and renewal.
A critical piece of the organizational growth, prosperity, and renewal is the development and nurturing of its culture – what it takes to fit in, meet expectations, perform, and promote success and adaptation. The development of cultures often follows a similar lifecycle trajectory of its own.
It starts as a reflection of the founder’s personality, values, and philosophy. Through the initial stages of growth and as employees are added, the cultures becomes an extension of the founder’s personality. Fitting in and “success” as a member means thinking and behaving like the owner and doing things her way. As the business grows and matures, new employees are less impacted by the owner’s style and behaviors. Instead, the cultures begin to adapt to the styles and behaviors of managers and directors. During this phase of development and maturity, sub-cultures evolve that reflect differences across departments and managers. Of course, there are still core elements of the founder’s personality and values that are embedded throughout the organization. The further removed a department or function is from the founder and leadership team, the greater the opportunity for cultural differences and uniqueness.
Oftentimes, a bad hire at the executive level can “pollute” the organization’s culture with a long-lasting impact. Even after the “problem” leader is removed, his cultural mutation remains for some time. Some changes are for the good and others aren’t. What’s important is that as the organization grows, systems and processes are installed to develop cultures coherently and with a result in mind.
Start – cultures evolve naturally and organically without thought or guidance. It simply becomes.
Managed – Culture is primarily managed through individual performance and development. Not much is done to identify, understand, or manage at the group level. The belief is that good managers and employees produce good cultures.
Defined – this is the stage in which some level of understanding of cultures is brought into awareness. Leaders learn that a culture exists that helps and hinders growth, change, and development. If culture change and development is attempted, it is usually through the development of managers to recognize their personal impact on the cultures and use it to modify or change their team. Teambuilding practices are most typically employed.
Predictable – This is the stage in which companies use some method to measure cultures in order to develop a deeper understanding of culture and its impact. Various methods are employed to root out “bad” culture and propagate “good” cultures. Efforts are also undertaken to systematize cultural processes in order to maximize predictability. Common activities to aid cultural predictability and foster “constructive” development include, mentoring, empowerment, quantitative assessment, and various cultural reinforcing schemes. Also at this stage, it is common for companies to define an “ideal” culture, for example, peak performing culture, a sales culture, a culture for quality, a safety culture, etc.
Optimizing – This is the stage in which the company adopts a “continuous improvement” ethos. Organizational members are constantly seeking ways to develop systems and processes that reinforce the ideal culture. The goal is for every system, process, function, and all employees are aligned to maximize their ideal culture.
So, what happens if the company doesn’t evolve in its understanding and development of culture? What are the categories of deception that exist at the cultural level – e.g., “quick fix” mentality, burnout, turnover, etc.
This is the backdrop for the next phase in culture development at Lifestyle Lift.