If I could get a sense of the way your culture works by meeting just one person, who would that person be?
I was trying to understand how organisational cultures work for the last two years. How to influence it and how to make any change sustainable. This is actually my job. To develop a sustainable organisational culture, culture of continuous improvement in production. The reason for my work is simple. All organizations have their own cultures. The only difference is: whether we shape them or whether they shape us.
Unless you are a top manager in your company (or a change of culture is your only ticket to work), it is very likely that you are being shaped by the culture in which you spend most of your time. At your work obviously.
The culture of each organization has a tremendous impact on the performance of an individual. Knowing that you also are aware that the success of your project highly depends on the culture that surrounds you. To be aware of the culture of an organization is a crucial skill for every project manager.
The only problem is that it is not an easy job to define what an organisational culture exactly means. Or to find the precise definition, as there are too many of them already existing. However, when speaking about it, somehow, we have the feeling that we know what it is. It is so apparent, that we are very often not even asking for any definitions or clarifications. Maybe it is because the word “culture” itself is becoming a kind of “buzz word” in the management area. We hear it daily. Or perhaps it is more a kind of “emotion” we experience while talking about it and without identifying it as a culture at all. What do you think?
According to ICB4, culture is defined as a set of related behaviours within a community. And the importance that individuals within the community attached to it.
Wikipedia says that culture (/ˈkʌltʃər/) is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behaviour and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals in these groups.
Awareness starts with understanding. To understand all the definitions of the culture is quite an exhaustive task. However, there is one binding point that unites all the explanations. The behaviour. The behaviour of an individual within a particular community. Behaviour-driven by systems based on shared beliefs, values, norms, principles, and visions. Behaviours, driven by processes in place.
Have you ever heard anyone say: “…we are doing it this way…”; “…in our company, we are used to sending the agenda before the meeting.”; “…usually you don’t see anyone in the office before 9:00 am,” or even you are the person saying that.
The best way, therefore, to identify the culture within an organization is to observe the behaviours of individuals. Sending an agenda before the meeting is a particular behaviour adopted by a robust system of managing meetings embedded in the culture. The time we arrive at our work is also driven by the culture, or by the behaviours of our colleagues. Have you ever noticed that people in your finance department always stay longer at work? And what about people in the production or IT department?
The simplest definition of culture is probably “THE WAY WE DO THINGS AROUND HERE”.
Imagine that you have to manage a project that requires the cooperation of other departments. Do they adopt the same behaviour as yours? Or do they prefer the entirely different norms and beliefs, and your company is the best example of the so-called “silo organization”? We assume that we have just one culture in our company and don’t even think about some differences spreading from department to department. And our assumption is probably wrong again.
To make it even a bit more complicated: imagine you need to manage a project in the company you have never visited before. What will be the first thing you will focus on? What will be the first thing you have to be aware of? And what about managing a project that requires the cooperation of many companies from many countries? How significant can be the influence of different cultures on your project?
The best way to understand the culture of an organization is probably an observation. By observation of people’s behaviours, at their daily job activities. By reflecting the way, we behave against the behaviours of our colleagues. By observing the forms of cooperation and relationships between your colleagues and teammates: the way they solve problems, the way they take accountability for their job, etc.
Once we are aware of the culture, we can adapt the project management approach to secure the success of our projects. Of course, we can also shape the culture and not only obey the unwritten rules. But that I would rather describe in my next blog.
So, who is that person in your organization whose behaviour represents the best the way your culture works? Is that you maybe?
Marek works as a LEAN Coach at Vaillant. His main job is to coach and develop sustainable culture of continuous improvement industrial plants of the Vaillant Group in Slovakia and England. Besides his love in Process improvement, he is very enthusiastic about project management as well. Marek founded and developed IPMA Young Crew in Slovakia. Currently, he is the Management Board Member of IPMA Slovakia and since march 2019 also the Management Board Member of Young Crew Global, responsible for GYCWS and Coaches and Mentors program. His hobbies range from books to different kinds of sports such as Crossfit and climbing iron ways. Why is he so involved in IPMA? As he says: “Whatever we do in our lives has the impact on the world and other people, therefore we should do the right things, be more professionals but never forget to have fun” 🙂
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