• Jon Reed

Defining Culture


A quick Google search for an understanding of organizational culture will quickly identify that…there’s no such thing as a quick Google search for an understanding of organizational culture. Too many people espouse too many varied ideas and opinions. That doesn’t mean, however, that culture can’t be well defined or strategically addressed to impact the performance of an organization.

Even with somewhat inconsistent views and opinions on the subject, we can at least find some agreement on the definition of culture as the beliefs and assumptions under which employees behave within an organization. And what contributes to those core beliefs and assumptions? Everything! Every single thing that happens within the organization impacts an employee’s beliefs and assumptions in some way.

So, if it’s everything, how do we impact the things that matter most to the health and performance of our individual organization? How do you deal with the things that matter most? The answer is simpler than the problem would suggest. We get organized.

First, we identify what we’re dealing with. We take an organized look at what those beliefs and assumptions are with a cultural survey. There are several good options for this but we believe that the Denison Model provides us with the best view to develop a meaningful cultural roadmap.

With those shared assumptions and beliefs, we look at 4 key cultural traits:

MISSION: Do our people know where we’re going? Do they feel a clear sense of direction and purpose?

ADAPTABILITY: Are we listening and responding appropriately to our competition and external environment? Do we see and move with patterns and trends that can impact our market?

INVOLVEMENT: Are our people engaged and aligned? Have we created an environment that fosters commitment, ownership and responsibility?

CONSISTENCY: Do we have the values, systems, and processes in place to create the leverage we need?

When we know how to answer these questions, we have a far better sense of whether our people see a balance between our external focus (customers, competition, market) and our internal focus (values, engagement, processes, etc.). We also know if we’ve achieved the organizational flexibility that we need without compromising a clear sense of stability. Balancing our strengths in each of these areas translates to strength in performance.

By getting organized around our organizational culture snapshot, we can see through everything that contributes to our organizational culture and create the roadmap that enables us to perform at our best.

Jon Reed is ADG’s Director of Culture and People Development. Click here to read more about Jon's background and experience.

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