Defining Organizational Culture

“I can’t tell you what it is. But I know it when I see it.”

This statement holds true for many things, especially organizational culture. For most people, they cannot pinpoint an exact definition of organizational culture However, most anyone can walk into an organization and tell you if it is a good – or not so good – culture.

You know when you see it.

Yet, this lack of understanding of organizational culture is why many companies and organizations today are struggling.

According to Clayton Christensen, one of the leading thought figures in business today, organizational culture are the VALUES and PROCESSES within an organization.

Values = What the organization cares about. (Profit, Customer Service, Impact, etc.)

Processes = How the individuals interact with each other. (Organizational chart, hierarchy, rules, etc.)

The values and processes determine the culture of the organization.

This is especially true in larger organizations (50+ employees).

In my own speaking and training, I talk about the Organizational Constitution. The Organizational Constitution is the sum total of the Purpose, Vision, Mission, Values, Principles and Structures that the organization.

Purpose = Why your organization exists.
Vision = The exact destination your organization is going. 
Mission = How your organization intends to reach its destination. 
Values = What matters most to your organization. (Be truthful about this.) 
Principles = The rules that guide the members of the organization. 
Structure = How people interact with each other within the organization (Org chart). 

A truly healthy culture is set by the make up of your Constitution. These words should guide every decision – and how people make decisions – within the organization.

The reality is this: Your organization or team has an established culture. If the culture is not what it should be, design or re-design your Constitution.

Once you have designed or re-designed your Constitution, (1) make sure everyone fits within the framework of this Constitution, (2) only hire people who will into the framework of this Constitution and (3) communicate this Constitution again and again.

It is important to remember that culture is something ethereal…not a spiritual notion. Culture is tangible. It can be touched. It can tweaked. It can be broken. It can be fixed.

A healthy culture is your Organizational Constitution. Anything less is creating a culture that is lessening your impact, effectiveness and profitability.

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