The goal of the series was to empower organisations to look deeper into their company culture and discover what they have the ability to influence, and especially, learn how to bridge the gap between the current culture and the ideal culture that they want to create. We have already published an article outlining the dimensions of culture and how to influence them, so now it is time to take a look at the last step – measurement and practical application.
Building a Company Mind Map
Ligia Koijen-Ramos asserts that the art of designing an organisational culture is akin to constructing a mind map, because culture is the brain of a company. If this process is done well then you will have not only a clear idea of the collective beliefs, shared experiences, and desired connections that shape the company’s identity, but also a defined goal and direction to keep moving in the right direction. Once you have created a reliable mind map of the company’s brain (a.k.a. culture), it can be used to track the progress and temperature within the company, as well as identify problems in a timely manner, and control solutions and outcomes that continue supporting the vision of the organisation.
Two Frameworks for Culture Measurement
In order to create a reliable mind map of your organisation’s culture you will need a frame of reference. Measuring the existing culture is often overlooked but proves to be a pivotal step in creating meaningful change. There are many diverse methods for taking the pulse of your company culture, including 360 degree feedback with the leadership team, sending out anonymous questionnaires, or conducting focus groups, to name a few. The exact process you use will depend on your team and goals, but Ligia has provided two frameworks that can give a guideline for what to focus on. These two frameworks are the organisational culture principles from Hofstede, and the operational principles that are found in nature.
1. Hofstede Principles
Hofstede’s organisational culture principles can be examined to further decipher and evaluate company culture and whether or not it is in line with the ideals you are aiming for. By identifying where your company falls on the scale of these various dimensions, it will be possible to both pinpoint your current company culture and strategically determine what needs to change in order to achieve your ideal company culture.
- Means-Oriented vs. Goal-Oriented: This principal deals with where the organisation’s focus lies on a scale between results (goals) or the journey to the results (means). An organisation’s focus will typically fall somewhere between a ‘find joy in the journey’ or ‘focus on the bottom line’ mentality, between an emphasis on results or appreciating the journey to achieve them.
- Internal Orientation vs. External Orientation: This principal deals with whether the organisational culture is more focused on how things are done and experienced internally, or on dealing with external parties and how they perceive the company and its actions.
- Easygoing vs. Strict Work Discipline: An easygoing company culture tends to include fewer procedures, more flexibility, and a ‘go with the flow’ attitude. An environment with strict work discipline will employee more clear and uniform procedures and workflows, as well as stricter enforcement of the established expectations.
- Local Focus vs. Professional Focus: A local focus is more egocentric and keeps everything closer to home by focusing on what I do, how my department operates, etc. A professional focus is based on a long-term outlook for the business. This way of looking at things tends to lead to a zoomed out view of how things are connected as a whole within the company and the market.
- Open System vs. Closed System: With an open system outlook the organisation, individual, or team is open to getting a lot of external input. They will also truly listen to the feedback, take it into consideration, and respond accordingly. In a closed system the organisation, individual, or team stands strong in their way of doing things and is less easily influenced by outside input.
- Employee-Oriented vs. Work-Oriented: This principal is basically exactly what it sounds like – the difference between focusing on people, their needs, and how they feel and interact in the team or focusing on tasks, knowledge, processes, and results.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to these organisational principles, that’s why they are on a scale. They are opposite sides of the same coin, and when employed correctly can all have a positive effect in a company. Keep in mind, however, that there may be a right or wrong application when it comes to achieving the ideal company culture that is specific to your organisation, so make sure to take the time and identify where your company culture needs to land on the scale to benefit your organisation the most.
2. Biology Principles: Learning from Nature
Intertwining principles from biology can give us great insight to craft intentional and sustainable organisational cultures. Nature is the perfect example of finding solutions for difficult problems, creating sustainable and symbiotic environments, and generally persevering until an equilibrium is achieved. Drawing parallels between the natural world and corporate environments can help to clarify the importance of sustainability, adaptability, and collaboration and what can be done to better achieve the desired equilibrium. After all, humans are part of nature and we react to our environment. Creating a supportive environment will lead to happier people, and thus better outcomes.
- Sustainability and Regeneration: Nature really knows how to recycle, renew, and reuse. Ligia says, “So if we are going to pick up the example of nature, we will not have waste. This is a great, great thing. …We are not wasting anything – we are not wasting time, we are not wasting resources, we are not wasting people, we are not wasting ideas. [The idea is that] everything is sustainable and we can keep doing this over and over again for many and different years.”
- Adaptability and Resilience: Nature never gives up! Trees grow in strange formations to reach the sun, or learn how to find root even on a rock in a stream. They can be stronger for the challenge. In a company it is important to ensure that the challenge is strong enough to lead to improvement, more adaptability, and strengthened resilience but not so strong that people’s motivation decreases.
- Independence and Collaboration: This natural principle can help us to understand the symbiosis between colleagues, teams, and departments within the company. Sometimes departments have their own way of doing things (which is fine), but those ways need to compliment, rather than clash with, each other and the common goals and uniform way of doing things within the organisation.
- Efficiency and Optimization: This principal focuses on pursuing efficiency not only in tasks but also in the overall well-being of individuals within the organisation. Ligia says, “We are always looking to become more efficient. More efficient in times, tasks, people – we are looking for efficiency. But also to become more optimal. So, that means that we are not only doing things faster and better, but everyone is also feeling better.”
- Feedback Loops and Continuous Improvement: Feedback loops in nature are transformative, efficient, and helpful. One of the main reasons this works is because the natural environment does not see the need for change as a threat, while in a corporate environment we may take this critical feedback personally and fight back rather than listen and improve. Transforming feedback into a constructive tool for growth can take some time but will help to ensure that your organisation stays alive and continues to progress over time.
Practical Exercises and Application
To cement the theoretical concepts discussed in all three sessions, Ligia proposed this simple practical exercise for organisations to align their culture with their vision and goals.
Application: Create a mind map of your organisation considering both Hofstede’s organisational principals and biology’s operational principles. Measure what is actually happening within your company by plotting the current culture using both frameworks. The organisational principles can be plotted on a sliding scale between the two contradicting principles. The operational principles can be plotted on a scale of 1 to 10 for each principle. Once you have analyzed all the principles you will have created a clear mind map to understand how your organisational culture is currently functioning. Now, go through the same steps again, only this time rate each principal based on what you determine would be the ideal placement for your organisational culture. The difference between your actual and ideal mind maps will create a roadmap for cultural transformation.
“Remember, it is really about your vision and your goals. It is not about what looks best, what looks better from the outside. Why? Because the culture that will engage everyone is the one that will bring to you the people that believe in your culture.
In the ever-evolving corporate landscape, creating a company culture demands intentional effort, constant measurement, and timely adjustments. By measuring and applying the organisational and operational principals mentioned above you can construct a sustainable company culture that supports the organisation’s vision and goals. As Ligia says, “Remember, it is really about your vision and your goals. It is not about what looks best, what looks better from the outside. Why? Because the culture that will engage everyone is the one that will bring to you the people that believe in your culture. And that is the way that you will engage everyone, …creating a company that, every time you recruit, every time you are doing something, people feel, “Wow, this is all connected.”