Culture 101

What is culture? One of the simplest definitions/descriptions of culture is, “the way we do things”. Those who follow this blog will know that I hold culture as “leadership behavior”. In truth, there is no way around this one…leadership shapes culture through word and modeled action…either intentionally or otherwise.

How far a reach does culture impact within an organization, a community or a society?

“Culture consists of the beliefs, behaviors, objects, and other characteristics common to the members of a particular group or society. Through culture, people and groups define themselves, conform to society’s shared values, and contribute to society. Thus, culture includes many societal aspects: language, customs, values, norms, mores, rules, tools, technologies, products, organizations, and institutions.” (Cliffsnotes)

An organization’s culture is experienced in the artifacts of the organization (statements of mission, values, codes, practices, policies, etc), the language, tools, technologies, products, group diversity…but more than any one of these items, culture is experienced as in or out of alignment of the whole.

I get push back on occasion, that I should leave values more open-ended…allow people to choose for themselves and to live out their personal values in whatever way they deem appropriate. While this is noble and even desirable in many ways…the organization truly only has one collective mission, and therefore all who are involved as stakeholders in the organization must find a way to come into a place of alignment…embracing common values which ensure that the mission is optimally impacted – sustainably.

It is not that people should not hold or respect their individual values. It is not that they need to surrender them on the way out the door each morning. Cultural alignment is not homogenization. It IS, however, unity within diversity.