‘Cause you got…
I look some liberties with the lyrics from Lloyd Price’s 1959 iconic hit, “Personality” to illustrate what I believe is the single most important factor in determining organizational values and culture. Our Center’s work with our customers, our research, and our own experience continues to drive home the central truth that organizations with great culture are that way because they chose to intentionally make it that way.
Culture’s dynamic nature. Make no mistake, values and culture happen. They are not static words on a wall or simply created by office layout or dress code. They are a product of dynamic daily decisions – cause and effect. If leaders don’t act with intention, they abdicate their responsibility and risk allowing the culture to be shaped by the whims of multiple forces inside and outside the organization. One of the founders of New Creature, Brad Jones, once shared with me that our word “culture”, comes from the Latin “cultura” meaning, “to cultivate or nurture”. (See the interview here) He’s talking about an on-going process
“Hope is not a plan”. I got this one from Major General Harold Timboe, M.D., U.S. Army, Ret. Harold is on our Executive Council and he shared this with me in the context of military operations and the support functions like medical staff. In combat operations or in strategic defense, planning absolutely matters. The same is true with organizational culture.
By identifying specific ways to shape culture, leaders can get ahead of circumstantial influences. Pre-determining things like:
- How you celebrate
- What gets recognized, rewarded and reprimanded and the forms each take
- Artifacts and stories
- Who and how you hire
These can position the organization to handle circumstances in a proactive and constructive manner that produces a desired momentum that is powerful.
Being purposefully organic. That sounds a bit like an oxymoron but it’s more than “planned spontaneity”. Leaders should recognize and appreciate that there are powerful positive cultural initiatives that can emerge from within the organization IF the culture they’ve created provides room for them. Let’s face it, leaders can’t plan everything and they don’t hold every good idea. But if the values of the organization contribute to its members having and feeling the freedom to act in order to promote, regenerate, and grow the culture, then creativity and buy-in go up in ways that no master design could conjure. Intentionality here looks a lot more like channeling than creating.
Our Founder, Don Soderquist, says that “Values matter in everything you do.” He reminds us that they set the tone for culture, which is a powerful force that determine the behaviors, assumptions, and decisions of our people every single day and ultimately determine whether or not an organization will ever reach its full potential. The health, performance, and sustainability of every organization is what is at stake – and that deserves our intentionality.