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Reviewing your organisation's culture

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How to define, identify and review an organisation's culture.

How do you go about changing the way things are done in an organization? Much of this is down to organizational culture. This section includes questions and considerations in  changing organisational culture.

Defining organisational culture

Organisational culture are the habits and accepted norms that underpin how we work and what is and isn’t acceptable in our workplaces. This governs our behaviour at work and so needs to be considered in any organisational change initiative.
Teams in organizations can also have their own individual culture. 

So for one team it might be usual dress informally or  socialize together.  In another team, the dress code might be more conservative and conversations restricted to work matters. The first step to changing a culture is to identify what people do, what the underlying habits and norms are. 

Identifying organisational culture

Here are some of the key indicators of an organisation's culture:

  • What did you notice most when you first joined the organisation?
  • Is the office or working space formal or relaxed?
  • What words does the organisation use to describe itself?
  • How do people spend their time? Do people sit behind desks and use PCs or walk about and talk to each other?
  • What kind of ceremonies or celebrations do you have?
  • To what extent does the organisation allow or accept uncertainty?
  • Is an individualistic or collective approach encouraged?

The cultural web below is a way of identifying culture. In a team  complete the different circles around the centre with examples from your organisation. Once you have completed all the circles, this will give you an understanding of the underlying paradigm, that is the fundamental beliefs and assumptions which underpin the  culture. 

Different Types of Culture

There are many different ways of describing culture. The classification below is developed by Harrison who proposes four different types of culture:

Power culture: This is where there is a strong central figure, for example, entrepreneurial start ups or where a charismatic founder has developed the organisation. 

Role culture: Government departments are typically a role culture. Here the organisation values roles and is guided by formal systems.  

Task culture: This culture simply values getting the job done and will consist of different  flexible groups geared to task achievement, for example, project teams

Personal culture: A personal culture emphasises individual interests and developments, for example, solicitors practice or a professional service.

Changing organisational culture

Charles Handy, a well known management theorist and commentator says: ‘Organisations are to some extent stuck with their past, with their reputation, the kind of people they hired years ago, their site and their traditions. These things take years if not decades to change’.

It’s important to remember this about organizational culture – it doesn’t change overnight. But the first important step towards to changing culture is developing a shared awareness of the culture as it is now, what is helpful about it and what is holding the organisation back. 

Organisations that have changed their culture

Barnardo's went through a major cultural change in 2008.

Useful links

Page last edited Jul 25, 2017

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