How to Use Organizational Culture to Drive Performance
Culture can be defined as “the way things get done” in an organization. At a first glance this definition might seem ridiculously simple and insufficiently descriptive. However, the way of doing things that organizations develop through trial and error, are the things that drive behavior and performance.
The most successful organizations are the ones that can set very clear and aligned values and processes. What’s more, the leaders who find it easier to adapt their organizations to changes in the business environment, are the ones who understand when it’s time to change the way things are done, to mix things up, to stay relevant.
This process of mixing things up might sound relatively simple, at least in theory, but in reality, it’s much more difficult to achieve.
The process of changing one’s workplace culture is a very complex and challenging one. So, how can leaders make this happen? How do you create a sustainable culture of high performance in your organization?
The following tips can help you achieve the desired results in terms of cultural change/evolution:
- Analyze the current culture
Firstly, it’s essential to completely understand your current culture. You have to be able to answer questions such as: “In what ways does your current culture align/misalign with your company’s values?”, or “What behaviors are your current systems and processes rewarding or de-incentivizing?”
It’s imperative for your culture to align with the ideas, values, and behaviors of your organization’s most important stakeholders: employees, vendors, shareholders, and customers.
- Have a grasp on your position
The next step is to have a strong grasp on your current and future market position. It is important to consider what the market is going to demand of you, before attempting to change the internal culture of your company. By understanding your position, you will be able to develop a sound strategy that can help you succeed in the market.
- Start discussing
You have to discuss the first two steps with the people in your organization. By doing this you will help your staff understand that the company needs a cultural change because certain aspects of your current model will not help you succeed in the future.
Communication is vital because the company determines your culture, and if anything is going to change, everyone needs to be actively involved. They must understand in what ways the current culture is holding the company back, what needs to change, and how these changes will contribute to the company’s long-term success.
- Don’t be hasty
Improvement must be achieved in slow increments and over a longer period of time. Don’t try to change your culture overnight. Taking on too much can place a strain both on the company and on the entire staff, a strain that can block the company’s path towards improvement.
The most successful companies are those that are able to prioritize their change efforts and address only a handful at a time. This method of change ensures that the new behaviors will be successfully adopted by the organization over time.
- Align systems and processes
After your organization has figured out the necessary cultural changes, you have to begin the process of evolving your systems and processes and making sure they align with and reinforce those behaviors.
These systems and processes include recruiting, on-boarding, compensation, performance management, etc. The company’s evolution is complete only after the work structure reflects the culture you wish to build.
- Lead by example
You have to show people that it’s ok to choose a different path, to behave in new ways. Promote these values to your team, reward members who exhibit them, and treat any slip-ups as learning experiences, not punishable situations.
By taking on the responsibility of being a role model and by trying to reinforce needed behaviors, leaders can pave the way towards a better organizational culture.
Although there is no handbook that can help you go through this process of change, leaders must keep in mind that any organization, no matter what size or industry, has the ability to build and sustain a culture of high performance.
By identifying the things that need to change and by employing an efficient plan, any organization can create and maintain a high-performing culture.