Shifting the culture of the organization

A Releasing Your Unlimited Creativity discussion topic

Copyright 2008 by K. Ferlic,   All Rights Reserved

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The word culture when used in reference to a group of individuals is seen as the sum total of the attainments and learned behavioral patterns of any specific period, race, or people regarded as expressing a traditional way of life subject to gradual but continual modification by succeeding generations. To talk about an organizational culture is to talk about the sum total of the attainments and learned behavioral pattern of the group of individuals within that organization and their way of being within that organization that gradually changes over time. To talk about shifting the culture of an organization is to look at changing learned behavioral patterns and change the way of doing business.

To talk about shifting the culture of an organization, it first needs to be realized any organization creates a particular way of thinking and doing business and with particular expectations of behavior and performance. Collectively, these create the organizational culture and this culture goes with that way of doing business. To change an existing culture the reasons for that culture need to be identified and understood. The reason for this is if that reason for the existing culture are not addressed and the existing culture is changed, the individuals within the organization will find some new way of addressing the reasons for the original culture.

For example, there was an organization that started work at 7:00 AM and most went home about 3:00 PM or a little after depending on the work load. All the employees parked in a public parking garage that had eight hour parking meters. But the metered parking was only required from 09:00 to 5:00 PM and the meters ran for only eight hours. So, every morning at about 8:45 AM everyone in the office got up and when out to put money in the meters. It become an office ritual and ceremony. The work schedule was planned around the ritual and it, in essence, became an official 08:45 morning break were the employees had a chance to chat with each other going to and from the meters.

Now if we desired to change that culture and force everyone to stay in the office at 8:45 and impose some penalty or punishment for leaving, someone would find a way to address the issue of the parking meters. It could be open rebellion or everyone else simply covering one persons’ absence while that one person when out to put money in the meters. The understanding that needs to be had is that the issue of parking was not going to go away. To try and change the way the office functioned and denying the existence of the parking issue is only asking for the issue to come back and haunt the organization at a later time. The reason for the existing culture needs to be understood and addressed effectively by the new culture if a true change is going to occur.

The key to organization culture change is to pull the string as to why business is being done the way it is currently being done. Only in understand and addressing reason can the culture be changed. This, of course, will require some time and effort and then the employees will have to be appropriately reeducated and retrained. How this is best done depends on the organization. The most common way is to train the individuals within the organization on the desired change. However, training may not be sufficient if there are deeply habits and/or beliefs.

More often than not, there is the need to show individuals why and how a new way of business should be done. Intellectual knowing is different than experiential knowing. Culture change is about providing both the intellectual and experiential knowing and the reason why business needs to be done in a new or different way. One particularly successful way that has been used is outline in the topic, "Some thoughts on how to go about changing organizational culture" available in the Password Protected Area.

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Some thoughts on how to go about changing organizational culture

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