It seems like an odd question, but it’s actually really important. Let’s say you discover this cool new technology that you think is going to make a big difference in the performance of your organization. Maybe it’s an internal intranet, or maybe it’s an online community for your members. When you evaluate the technology, have you given thought to how your existing organizational culture will react to it? Because your culture could chew up this cool tech initiative and spit it out. To know whether that will happen, of course, presumes that you really know what your current culture is.
And in my experience, most organizations don’t. If you ask anyone in an organization what the culture is, you’ll certainly get an answer. But it might vary depending on which level of the hierarchy you have approached, or even worse, you’ll get a stock company answer that matches those inspirational posters on the wall, but is miles away from what the REAL culture is. This fuzzy and inconsistent description of an organization’s culture is one reason why people say culture is such a tricky subject. Well it wouldn’t be as tricky if you actually understood your culture to begin with. That requires that you get multiple perspectives on both the WHAT and the WHY of culture.
When Maddie and I do a culture assessment with clients, it has two components. The first is a quantitative assessment completed by all staff that gives you a snapshot measurement of where your culture stands along four, critical areas: distribution of power, openness, working together, and growth and innovation. By collecting data from everyone, you usually end up with a clearer picture of “what is.” The second component is a success drivers assessment, which is completed through individual interviews with key staff. This qualitative assessment starts to fill in the “what could be” and “what should be” parts of the equation. It is only by connecting the qualitative and quantitative assessments that you get a clear understanding of both the WHAT and the WHY of your culture. When you understand both of those aspects, then it becomes much easier to figure out what needs to change internally to strengthen and focus your culture in the right areas.
You’ll also have a much better understanding of how that new technology initiative is going to fit into your culture. If you learn that in your culture everyone prioritizes product sales, then maybe that online community is going to be tough to nurture. But if everyone is on the same page that collaboration across silo lines is critical for ongoing success, then it could be a perfect time to launch that intranet. The better you understand your own culture, the more successful your technology decisions will become.