May 08

Culture and Community

Culture and Community

Here are a few ideas to ponder and help create a base for a ‘conversation for possibilities’ for your organization and culture.

I: Strong Vs Weak Cultures

Strong culture is said to exist where staff respond to stimulus because of their alignment to organizational values. In such environments, strong cultures help firms operate like well-oiled machines, cruising along with outstanding execution and perhaps minor tweaking of existing procedures here and there.

Conversely, there is weak culture where there is little alignment with organizational values, and control must be exercised through extensive procedures and bureaucracy.

And, where culture is strong, people do things because they believe it is the right thing to do, and there is a risk of another phenomenon, groupthink. “Groupthink” was described by Irving Janis.

He defined it as “a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that people engage when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternatives of action.” (Irving Janis, 1972, p. 9)

This is a state in which even if they have different ideas, do not challenge organizational thinking, and therefore there is a reduced capacity for innovative thoughts. This could occur, for example, where there is heavy reliance on a central charismatic figure in the organization, or where there is an evangelical belief in the organization’ values, or also in groups where a friendly climate is at the base of their identity (avoidance of conflict). In fact, groupthink is very common and happens all the time, in almost every group.

Members that are defiant are often turned down or seen as a negative influence by the rest of the group because they bring conflict…

II: Adaptive (Cultures) – Healthy organizational cultures

Organizations should strive for what is considered a “healthy” organizational culture in order to increase productivity, growth, efficiency and reduce counterproductive behavior and turnover of employees. A variety of characteristics describe a healthy culture, including:

  • Acceptance and appreciation for diversity
  • Regard for and fair treatment of each employee as well as respect for each employee’s contribution to the company
  • Employee pride and enthusiasm for the organization and the work performed
  • Equal opportunity for each employee to realize their full potential within the company
  • Strong communication with all employees regarding policies and company issues
  • Strong company leaders with a strong sense of direction and purpose
  • Ability to compete in industry innovation and customer service, as well as price
  • Lower than average turnover rates (perpetuated by a healthy culture)
  • Investment in learning, training, and employee knowledge

According to Kotter and Heskett (1992), organizations with adaptive cultures perform much better than organizations with unadaptive cultures. An adaptive culture translates into organizational success; it is characterized by managers paying close attention to all of their constituencies, especially customers, initiating change when needed, and taking risks.

An unadaptive culture can significantly reduce a firm’s effectiveness, disabling the firm from pursuing all its competitive/operational options.

  • What type of Culture does your organization operate with now?
  • What type of Cultural Changes might your organization aspire to?
  • How long have you either been:
    • Ignoring it
    • Politically correct
    • Afraid (being attacked or loosing your job)
      • “Are you negotiating your power, for the sake of personal acceptance. This can lead to the loss of self-respect.” – Caroline Myss.
    • Powerless
    • Oblivious or unaware
    • Defending the status quo
    • Actively discussing this idea and or making progress (a shared vision – that the entire team would agree to?)