Why Culture Matters More Than You Think

- March 24, 2016 3 MIN READ

Culture is the ‘how and why we do what we do’ or ‘the way we do things around here.’ Culture can develop as overarching themes within an organisation. It can be made up of stories and unwritten ground rules that influence behaviour. These rules can be intentional or unintentional, they may be clearly stated or implied, but make no mistake whichever rules apply the culture of the organisation is the starting point for everything. Your culture will take your business to the next level or your culture will ‘kill’ your business.

The Critical Alignment Model

The Critical Alignment Model is a framework that includes four dimensions. The dimensions are:

  • Environment
  • Structure
  • Implementation
  • People

The structure of the framework and the dimensions is set up in such a way and in a particular order for a reason. I know people will say ‘but you should put your people first’, and whilst I don’t disagree with looking after your people it can be argued that you have to get your culture right before moving on.

The Environment is the big picture – the overall purpose of what we do. It covers the qualitative aspects: culture, vision, values, standards, mind-set and how we feel.

If we’re clear on our purpose, we know why we’re doing something, and we can see how it fits into the bigger picture. If we don’t have a purpose its like getting in a car and having no idea where we are going. Would we ever do that? Yet so many businesses and organisations do not know what their purpose is.

If we don’t have purpose, we get stuck in ‘task’ and can do lots with little clear direction.

Environment includes:

  • The culture – how the place feels or how we ride.
  • The vision – where it is heading
  • The mission – how we will get there
  • The purpose – why you are there
  • The values – What do you care about and what would you fight for
  • The goals – what do you want to achieve
  • Beliefs  – what we know to be true
  • Standards – the personal standards we hold ourselves to
  • Expectations and the expectations of your team
  • Attitude and your teams attitude- what your approach is

The second dimension is about organisation and planning. It’s the categories of experience we need to consider. It’s the quantitative elements we need in place to succeed.

We must be clear on our environment first. Then we move to Structure. If we don’t, we get caught in details without purpose.

Structure includes:

  • Categories – the areas or dimensions of what’s going on.
  • Divisions/Departments – the different areas of responsibility.
  • Benchmarks/KPI’s – the measurable targets.
  • Systems – The systems to support the KPI’s
  • Operational Manuals – the written documentation showing steps and policies.
  • Templates/Checklists – the checklists to allow fast implementation.

Implementation is what we actually do. It’s the actions we take, which should be compared to the benchmarks established in structure.

All actions in business should be benchmarked so we know the standard we’re shooting for. We use the steps we’ve established in the structure to determine what we do and when. We’re guided by the policies and the operations manuals and the checklists.

Implementation includes:

  • Actions – what we do
  • Conversations – what we discuss
  • Decision making/Judgement – what we decide

People come last for a great reason. Most companies put ‘people first’ but have no idea how to help them, develop them or set the up for success.

With the environment, structure and implementation in place, developing someone is based on best practice, based on the culture, the benchmarks and the very best implementers.

This framework will assist to develop people beyond their role, and not just to do their role. It is about developing people who strive beyond their ‘responsibilities’.

People includes:

  • Hiring – looking for culture matches
  • Performance managing – feedback ongoing, on culture/vision/values match
  • Developing – beyond the ‘job’
  • Leadership development – beyond the ‘job’

Learning to “see” culture, group dynamics, beliefs, and behaviours is helpful for anyone wishing to make a difference. When you become aware, you can contribute to the necessary positive change.

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