Make conscious choices about your culture

In a client company, we talked about maintaining the best aspects of the company culture as the company continues to grow. It’s a good conversation to have.

The former business and money channel editor here at commented to me once upon a time that in her experience many small businesses struggle with the concept of culture. She’s been a business and finance writer for a number of years and has spoken with many different small businesses.

Her experience echoes my own. Most small businesses do not consciously decide about what aspects of culture should be developed and maintained in their companies. So, the culture just develops on its own. It’s a given that a work environment or culture will develop. The coming together of people in a workplace guarantees the development. The question is whether the culture that develops serves the best interests of your customers, the satisfaction of your employees, and your organization’s future progress and continued success.

How Do You Stay in Touch With the Environment Your Employees Experience at Work? (Check all that apply.)
– Listen to employee complaints.
– Follow an open door policy.
– Administer periodic employee surveys. (for more reading about employee surveys)
– Manage by walking around.
– Hold regular performance development planning / feedback meetings.
– Daily conversation / feedback.Don’t want to know.Who cares?
– We don’t spend the time.

So, for me, consciously determining the culture that will serve your best interests is a priority. So is assessing the culture periodically to see how you’re doing.

Keeping an open ear and listening to what employees are saying or complaining about gives you a lot of information. (See what our readers think are top employee complaints.)

So will a periodic employee satisfaction survey. Checking in with new employees to learn about their experience of joining your company is useful, too. (read here how we support DeLaval world wide in employee surveys …)

Then, depending on what you discover, you can make plans to change the culture if it’s not emphasizing what’s important for your business.

One Component of the Culture Changed
When you think about changing your organization’s culture, you don’t always have to think on a massive scale or total organization. A few persistent people can make powerful changes with commitment and persistence.

I’ll provide an example to which we can all relate. In one company, managers and other attendees had developed the habit of arriving late at meetings. This dishonored the time of the meeting participants who came on time and extended the time of every meeting, usually causing the next meeting scheduled in the conference room to start late, too.

Grousing about the “culture of lateness” went on for years until a couple of brave managers decided to change the rules. Henceforth, they said, all meetings would start on time, end on time, and anyone who was late was responsible for their own catch up outside of the meeting. And, any decision made by meeting participants, even without the input of the late arrivers, would hold. Oh, and by the way, every meeting would have an agenda, distributed 24 hours before the meeting, or these key managers would not attend.

Let me tell you. Change was painful. Meeting participants resisted change. Employees showed up late, failed to distribute agendas and no meeting ever had the people needed for a decision in attendance at the beginning. But, rather than caving to popular pressure, a committed group of employees honored the rules and moved forward. Within months, just prior to every scheduled meeting, you’d see a scurrying in the halls as people rushed to show up for their meeting on time.

Rules in the company about meetings changed, too. Meetings did not have to last an hour. Agendas were written to allow people who only needed to attend part of a meeting to leave when their input was complete. People were prepared (although that was the next battle – employees began cancelling meetings on the spot when participants came unprepared for the discussion – because they had related material and meeting minutes in advance.

A few committed people persisted and they changed the culture. Do you have an example in your organization? Should you?

Source:, September 23, 2012
Author: Susan M Heathfield
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