According to author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, “We’ve succeeded as a species because of our ability to form cultures. Cultures are groups of people who come together around a common set of values and beliefs… A company is a group of people brought together around a common set of values and beliefs. It’s not products or services that bind a company together. It’s not size and might that make a company strong. It’s the culture—the strong sense of beliefs and values that everyone, from the CEO to the receptionist, all share.”
Every organization, like it or not, has a culture. These cultures can be more narrowly defined as a safety culture, a diversity and inclusion culture or others, but they all fall under the umbrella of organizational culture. In short, what are the shared values and beliefs that bring its people together?
Or drive them apart.
Every organization is going to have a vision and a mission. The more clearly these are defined, the easier it will be for the people within the organization to align their efforts in support of them. Following on to the vision and mission statements will be strategic plans and objectives and then policies that support those.
Policies are sets of general guidelines that are used for addressing particular issues. They communicate the organization’s values, philosophies and (intended) culture. Sometimes these policies are based on societal expectations, applicable laws or regulations or previous areas where the company has been open to liability. In short, they define what the employees, customers and general public can expect from that organization.
“Culture eats policy for breakfast.”
In other words, an organization can have all the policies in the world that are written to societal norms, following all laws and regulations and ostensibly promoting a positive image of an organization. Unfortunately, if the culture of the organization is not aligned with those policies, the culture will take precedence and the policies will be adhered to, at the best, in a superficial manner.
As Steve Wood notes in the LinkedIn post above, “…actions speak far louder than words…” and “We don’t trust words. We even question actions, but we never doubt patterns.” This misalignment of culture and policies can create a toxic workplace culture. These toxic cultures can greatly diminish the effectiveness of the organization, damage its reputation and leave it open to civil and criminal liability. More to come on these topics…
Additional Reading and Links
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