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Where to look when you measure your culture

“Organisational culture: a company’s prevailing values, attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs all make up the soft, invisible stuff of culture and determine its outlook — what it finds meaningful and important.” – Bruce M. Thorpe

Despite its complexity, you can’t afford to ignore the role of culture in business performance, safety, quality and production. Years of research prove the link between culture and organisational effectiveness, and a strong, value-driven corporate culture:

  1. Reduces uncertainty by creating a common way to interpret events and issues
  2. Creates order so members know what’s expected
  3. Brings continuity
  4. Provides common identity and unity of commitment
  5. Builds a vision of the future around which everyone can rally

Why measure in the first place?

It seems of little benefit to spend time diagnosing where you already are if you want to move away from it, but understanding your starting point in the change process is of primary importance. In fact, one of the main reasons why cultural change programmes fail is because they try to do too much in one go.

Understanding your present culture allows changes to be bought in at a reasonable pace, so they don’t unduly alienate people or create resistance.

Where to begin

During the assessment process, identify specific groups or departments who are already on board with your aspirational values and goals. These groups are useful benchmarks in the change process and provide positive examples for the rest of your organisation.

Understanding subculture is also very important if changes are to be implemented successfully, and the influence they have cannot be underestimated. Whilst core cultural elements from the corporate level will endure across all sites and locations, such as uniform, operating procedures and management policies, local variations in the way people work will also be in effect so these must be identified and understood if they are not to derail the change process.
Colourful notes with resolutions written on them
Focus groups are the key to successfully identifying specific, local differences between groups because they give people a chance to talk about the way they work and how they see things like safety or quality. Their perception of how things are and who has ownership of different aspects of the business will help explain how proactively they engage in making your business successful.

Don’t rush into it

Whether it’s safety or quality you need to improve, you must first decide what you want out of your assessment, who can give you that and where they work. Otherwise you might find yourself relying on guesswork and coming up with assumptions that throw you on the wrong path and put people off.

Running a culture assessment is a big investment in time and commitment. If things aren’t set up correctly at the start you can find yourself with more questions than answers. If you’re still not sure where to begin or your cultural assessment data is mounting up, then the new year’s a perfect time to start afresh (with a little help from the experts at JOMC!).

Happy Christmas.

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