What is culture?

What is culture?
10th August 2018 Clare

Put simply, culture is ‘how things are done around here’.

Culture is often seen as something that is hard to define and even harder to change. Not so, on both counts. It can be difficult to digest and then move to a new culture as all employees have an interest in keeping the culture as it is. There needs to be a clearly defined path form change or a compelling reason for people to change.

A culture is the values and practices shared by the members of the group. Company Culture is the shared values and practices of the company’s employees and it leads to predictable behaviors and attitudes that set one company apart from others. Strong agreement to the values, beliefs and norms that constitute culture results in a strong relationship to behavior.

Company culture is important because it can impact greatly on a company. Companies with an adaptive culture that is aligned to their business goals routinely outperform their competitors.

Company cultures evolve and they change over time. As employees leave the company and replacements are hired the company culture will change. If it is a strong culture, it may not change much. However, since each new employee brings their own values and practices to the group the culture will change, at least a little. As the company matures from a startup to a more established company, the company culture will change. As the environment in which the company operates (the laws, regulations, business climate, etc.) changes, the company culture will also change. There are a myriad of forces that are affecting the organisation and its culture.

An adaptive culture values change as an opportunity for improvement. Personnel view change as exciting and challenging and they aren’t afraid of uncertainties inherent with change. Leaders understand that most change cannot be prepared for and learn to embrace it. The fact they don’t know the answer to a new problem is acceptable because it can be figured out – the culture of the company allows for that. That is the value of embracing change: you can make it work for you.

Compare this to a conventional competitor who is stuck on the idea that he needs to control, and therefore never learns to think dynamically. Either he knows or he doesn’t know the solution. When he does not know, he is like a rabit in headlights. Unconventional leaders may not always know solutions to problems, but when they don’t know, they figure it out. Such dynamic thinking is essential in a changing environment.


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