What is Business Culture?

What is Business Culture?

Working on the train

This is a blog that I wrote for Unlimited Potential Ltd who kindly published it on their web site https://www.unlimitedpotential.co.uk/ in July 2019.

‘Change the culture…change the culture’. It’s become something of a battlecry within business , but what does it really mean? What is a culture anyway? Is it just some new jargon that will fade into the sunset in due course?

Culture is a very real thing within business, and is made up of many elements, from language to attitude to recruitment policy…

Generally we find that everyone, or nearly everyone within an organisation has an innate understanding of the prevailing culture, even if it’s not something that’s ever spoken about.

To understand a company’s culture we first have to understand why it’s important, what does the current culture do or achieve and what difference would changing this culture make.

To put it in perspective, if you want to make changes to improve output you generally change the process. And if you want to improve the behaviours or values within an organisation you need to find ways to change the process that create those behaviours or values.

But before we can change anything we have to ask a few questions to establish where the organisation is now in respect of these values, where we want it to be and what the changes will actually accomplish.

The first thing to do is to set ourselves a rule: NAFOF…or Never Assume – Find Out First.

Some of the things we might take into consideration in preparation for change are:

  • Current corporate strategies
  • Mission and value statements
  • The language used – both internally and in communication with others such as clients and suppliers
  • Conduct within and around meetings
  • How performance is managed
  • How staff are rewarded (or penalised)
  • Decision making
  • Budgets and structure of the business

It’s possible to develop a comprehensive picture of a company’s culture by exploring the above, but the most important factors to consider may not appear in corporate documents or on the website.

These critical factors focus on Behaviours, True Values and ‘The Way We Do Things around Here’.

So here are 10 questions that revolve around these critical areas, and which will quickly reveal a company’s business culture.

  • How do people behave here?
  • Are behaviours aligned with espoused mission and value statements?
  • If behaviours are not aligned with corporate strategy, where is the gap that needs to be filled?
  • What will a new staff member quickly learn that isn’t in the staff handbook?
  • What stories are commonly told by staff, either amongst themselves or externally?
  • What kind of language is used within the business?
  • How is performance managed?
  • How do meetings function within the business?
  • How are business decisions made?
  • What is emphasised by the business structure?

A corporate culture is the business of everyone who works within the business; from the CEO to the youngest apprentice. Everyone has an influence on the culture. The biggest part of changing a culture is giving people the realisation of what they currently have, and an understanding that they are major contributors to the culture…whether they like it or not!