Building an organizational culture: a scientific art

Culture is one of the most commonly used but rarely understood words. Whenever a group of people come together for some common purpose, the culture of the group is always the topic of discussion. This group can be a community group or a business. It is the culture of the group that plays the central role in the success of the group. When it comes to professionally managed organizations, organizational culture is always the topic of discussion in the boardroom. Every organization invests great effort in establishing the right culture, but very few manage to achieve the same goal.

So where is the missing link?

The missing link lies in understanding what an organizational culture is and what actions can build the right organizational culture. Let’s try to get the answer from these two points. What is a culture? There are many definitions that attempt to describe culture. In my opinion, whenever a group of people come together for some common purpose, they demonstrate a certain behavior and develop common habits. The common behavior and habits exhibited by the group define the culture of the group. If every person in the organization completes their tasks on time, that organization can be said to have a culture of completing tasks on time, but if the majority of the members delay completing their tasks, the organization will be known for the lack of time. managerial culture. It is the action of the members of the group that defines the culture. For organizations that want to build the whole culture within organizations, it needs to ensure that these sets of habits and behaviors are demonstrated by every person in the organization. This demonstration should start with the top-level leadership team and should flow down to every member of the organizations.

In my observation while working with over 150 organizations around the world, I have found that most CXOs of organizations understand the above fact, but they don’t know how to build these common sets of behaviors, habits and in turn how to build the expected culture in the organization. They try various approaches and have their own culture-building philosophies. I categorize these CXOs into two types.

The Type 1 CXO believes that establishing a culture is a science. It has predefined steps and if these steps are copied and pasted, the culture will be automatically created. These Type 1 CXOs carry their previous experience and instruct their team to simply copy and paste into the new organization. These type 1 CEOs are convinced that if the process worked in the previous organization, the same must also happen in a new place, but unfortunately most of them fail because of this assumption.

The Type 2 CXO believes that building a culture is not the defined process, but it is an art. They believe that culture is such an intangible thing that it cannot be limited to certain stages. They are strong supporters of innovation for culture building. They expect their teams to come up with a variety of innovative approaches to building culture. Although the thought process of these Type 2 CXOs seems to be fair, it is entirely dependent on the innovative capabilities of their team. Often, team members do not consistently demonstrate these innovative capabilities and so, again, these Type 2 CXOs fail.

So the question remains, what is the right approach to building an organizational culture? Is the construction of culture a science or an art? For me, it is neither a science nor an art. I call building organizational culture a “scientific art”. In my opinion, the term scientific art is a fusion of scientific approach with capacities for innovation. Building an organizational culture certainly requires a step-by-step approach, but what needs to be done at each step must be designed and implemented in an innovative way by understanding group dynamics.

When it comes to building culture, we need to understand that culture is built by people and people need to be guided so that they don’t totally miss the track. This task is accomplished by the “science” part of the scientific art. At the same time, as culture is something that is built by the people in the organization and for the people in the organization, it cannot be copied and pasted. Each organization is unique. It is unique in terms of policies, processes, products & services, regional cultures, customer and other stakeholder expectations, etc. This singularity calls for art, that is to say innovation for the construction of culture. Even if an organization has two factories, action items that worked in one factory may not work in another factory due to this uniqueness.

I recommend following 4 major steps to follow to build organizational culture. Here, one must always remember that these steps are the guiding principles and under each step, one must determine the actions that must be thought out and implemented in an innovative way.

Main steps to arrive at a culture reinforcement action plan:

1. Define organizational values:

This is the most important step. Organizational values ​​are unique to each organization. They are sets of beliefs expressed by the founders of organizations. Organizational culture is directly linked to organizational values. Every organization must ensure that the organizations values ​​must be in line with the expected culture of the organization. Define only the values ​​that the organization can practice in the future.

2. Communicate values:

It is not enough to set the right values. These values ​​must be communicated to everyone in the organization. The real meaning behind these values ​​and why the organization considers these values ​​must be explained to each member of the team in a very simple way and in the language they understand. Simply hanging up the boards mentioning the values ​​is not enough at all. This step should be repeated very often, at least once a quarter.

3. Practice the values ​​– Once you have defined the organizational values ​​and communicated them to each person, management must ensure that these values ​​are practiced by them on a daily basis without even a single deviation. Values ​​will be converted into organizational culture if they are practiced by everyone, every day and everywhere.

This step is very important. Most organizations skip this step.

Organizations decide on beautiful values ​​but they fail to put them into practice.

4. Clearly define the vision and mission – The vision provides clarity on what the organization wants to achieve and the mission gives direction. It gives direction to the teams and helps the culture building process. The vision and mission of the organization must be aligned with the values ​​of the organization.

If the organization follows the above four steps in the true sense while identifying the uniqueness of the organization at each step, it has already embarked on the process of building the right organizational culture. The culture built through this process of “scientific art” will be an enduring culture playing a central role in the growth of the organization.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.


Aubrey L. Morgan