Organizational Culture – from Spooky to SPECTACULAR

Is your organizational culture spooky?

We often share a quote that was originally coined by Peter Drucker:  

“Culture eats strategy for lunch.”   

Along the way, someone added, “and structure for breakfast.”   

It is a funny saying, but you get the point right away. Nothing … no policies, no org charts, no processes and procedures, no lists … can get around an organizational culture that lacks trust, communication, accountability, and a commitment to the success of the team. 

So, while we are often asked to help nonprofit organizations develop strategies and structures, those efforts can be hampered by dysfunctional organizational culture. We’ve found that organizations simply don’t spend enough time thinking and talking about intentionally creating the kind of culture they want. 

In the spirit of Halloween, here are FIVE suggestions for how you can move your organizational culture from SPOOKY to SPECTACULAR: 

  1. LEARN a little bit about organizational culture from the experts.  Reading books by Brené Brown, Patrick Lencioni, Daniel Coyle, and Kim Scott helped us understand some of the theories and practices behind highly functional teams and positive organizational culture. There is real evidence around the best practices that lead to increased trust, a sense of safety and belonging, effective communication, and increased accountability.   
  2. ASK your team what they want in a workplace culture. Create an anonymous survey to elicit honest feedback about what your current workplace culture IS and ISN’T. What do employees value in a workplace culture? Do people feel safe? valued? supported? What is getting in the way of the kind of workplace people want?   
  3. DISCUSS openly across your organization what an ideal workplace culture would look like. What conditions need to be present? What agreements need to be made?  How might everyone benefit from the kind of culture you want? How could you better meet your mission and serve your community? What should happen when a team member falls out of alignment with your mutual commitments to culture? These are important conversations! 
  4. BE EXPLICIT about your desired culture and the behaviors that will create it. Develop a “team credo” or set of “workplace agreements” to collectively identify and communicate expectations that promote the organization’s core values and ideal organizational culture. Use this as a tool to remind (and hold accountable) yourself and others to your desired cultural norms. You can even identify an organizational culture “mascot” as a symbol that represents those cultural ideals! 
  5. RECOGNIZE when people are promoting the positive cultural norms you desire. Point it out. Acknowledge. Celebrate! Reinforce the positive behaviors that further your desired organizational culture. And find ways to measure the impact: decreased staff turnover, higher productivity, better customer service, etc. 

Take these steps and you will be well on your way to intentionally creating the kind of organizational culture that you want and deserve!