According to Edgar Schein (a former Professor at MIT) culture is the most difficult organizational attribute to change. It outlasts founders, leaders and products.
So what exactly do we mean by culture?
It is the pattern of shared or basic assumption that the group learns to solve problems of external adaption and internal interaction, that has worked well and can be taught to the new entrants.
Companies with a strong culture
Exhaustive researches and studies say that companies with a strong culture like P&G or General Electric have greater ROI, net income growth and market capitalization compared to companies with constantly changing culture.
The level of networking, social bonding, goal-alignment, overall motivation also remarkably gets enhanced. For example, an organization with higher recognition culture has less voluntary turnover and hence attrition rate is low. A firm with flat structure, no hierarchical approach are prone to outstanding idea generation, thought exchange and innovation.
Basic foundation of an organization
So you see, culture is the basic foundation of an organization. Changing culture is perhaps the most difficult and risk laden work that a manager faces. In other words, you can’t change the way decisions are taken, tasks are implemented over a fortnight. You need to unfreeze, change and then refreeze the culture again. This is time consuming and laborious.
In every organization, be it in mine or yours, culture comes from its people. Culture is basically the norms (internal or external customary behaviours) shared by all the employees, that thrive on cooperation and friendship. It is dynamically created. The newcomers learn the culture from his/her colleagues and get accustomed to the same. One of the critical factors in driving culture is the leadership attitude. Right culture needs to be fostered by the leader across all the levels of an organization.
Various elements of culture
There are various elements of culture. One of them being attributes like dress, behaviour or the way of thinking, way of interacting etc. Like the informal environment, flat structure, no-cabin set up shows a particular type of culture in Google. Next comes the experience, which is gained through participation or judgement. For example, a training session on a particular topic shows the cultural set-up of a firm to the trainees. Thirdly it is a belief which develops upon trust, confidence and acceptance. Lastly it is about value system, mission and vision of an enterprise.
Employees build and maintain the culture
It is the employees who build and maintain the culture. They listen to stories, check out the symbols, follow the rituals and understand the language to further maintain it. One who is unable to do the same is culturally unfit. Induction programs, boot-camps, assessment centres are extensively used now-a-days for acclimatizing the new comers to the existing culture.
Coming to my experience, developing and harnessing a culture takes humongous effort and time. But without this, your business will be nothing! Until and unless you build a culture and make your people follow the same, everything will be unmanageable and chaotic. A CEO must build such a culture that employees and leaders can easily adapt to the volatility and change is external business condition. For this, apart from efficient and effective manpower, you need culturally fit people for maximizing your business success.