Strategy & Business (01/11) Katzenbach, Jon; Harshak, Ashley


An organization’s culture usually is defined as the deeply set behaviors, beliefs, and mindsets that determine how the organization carries out its activities. Those within an organizational culture share a common understanding of how the world works, their place in it, the dimensions of their workplace, and the value of their actions. Organizational culture strongly influences everyday actions, even though it may not always be obvious. Such cultures are slow to change, so leaders who wish to alter their company or institution are most likely to succeed by using the existing culture to change behaviors. These gradual changes in behavior can lead to business results that will lead to desired changes in the culture. Many blame company culture when meeting resistance to change, but extreme attempts to make wholesale cultural change often are costly and time-consuming and can lower morale. On the other hand, leaders may try to ignore company culture and suppress it, but hidden culture often can disrupt strategic aspirations. Aggressively fighting the organizational culture or ignoring it entirely will only frustrate leadership’s efforts. Instead, leaders must use their company culture purposefully to enact change, first by discerning the cultural elements that fit with their strategy. They must be aware of the organization’s culture and how it affects behavior throughout the team, for good or bad. Leaders also should determine which of the old constructive behaviors can be used to bring about desired changes and which elements should be suppressed to bring about change. Encouragement should be given to employee behaviors that reinforce the desired company values; such behavior will lead to changes in culture. Likewise, undesirable behaviors should be penalized or discouraged. At the same time, leaders must provide guidance for expected new behaviors and make it clear why the company considers them important. Organizations also should have role models for the changed behavior that employees can follow to know what is expected.

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EDSI Commentary


Culture management, to be effective, must be gradual and continuous. If you have any comments or feedback, please visit our company wiki.