How to Explain the Importance of Organizational Culture

An organization is judged by its culture.
An organization is judged by its culture. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Organizations – just like countries – have their own cultures. Asim Khan, CEO of the Business Management Group, defines organizational culture as operational principles that provide a context for the way people behave – including their values, beliefs and assumptions -- in a company. Organizational culture promotes a sense of shared purpose that starts during the recruitment phase and carries on with retention practices. If the individual can’t work within the organizational culture, conflicts will arise. Organizational culture is a core component, so it is important that everyone from the CEO to the security guards understand the concept. Explaining it to a wide range of people may seem difficult, but if you break it into steps, it is manageable.

Start with the mission statement. Review the reasons why the organization was initially established and make sure everyone understands its mandate. Ask questions to make sure your audience comprehends this important foundational element of organizational culture.

Ask the individuals in the audience to make a list of the stated and unstated values and why they are important. Stated values could be things such as a dress code that allows for “casual Fridays.” Unstated values are assumptions such as people getting to work or time or staying late to meet a project deadline.

Talk shop. Explain that the culture of an organization manifests itself by how the individuals talk about their experiences. Ask for volunteers to offer anecdotes to demonstrate the important role culture plays in the organization.

Discuss the customs and rituals that have developed as a result of the culture of the organization. It could be things such as colleagues getting together for drinks after work on Wednesdays or biannual company awards dinners.

Invite people to evaluate the climate of the organization due to its culture. Symphony Orchestra Institute advises that this involves the “feel” of the place and how individuals interact with each other, the environment and physical space of the organization.

Stress that the organizational culture is what gives an institution a human face. Inform people that without the particular culture of each organization, it would be a gray, lifeless place to work and that individuals would not be valued.

Examine the myths and legends about the organization. Like talking shop, this exercise helps an audience understand the importance of the organizational culture by providing concrete examples to relate to.

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