From Organizational Culture:
As fish are to water, people are to culture - unaware
Readings from pages 92-94.
KEY: The culture of your organization profoundly affects your life in an organization – and in ways you may not recognize.
Culture permeates an organization. It is pervasive, powerful, and enduring. Culture may affect an organization’s climate, which is made up of workplace attitudes such as job satisfaction, worker morale, employee commitment, and how much employees participate in decision-making. But unlike climate, which is more readily changed, culture is extremely difficult to change once established. It is in the bedrock of the organization and it may take an earthquake to shift the landscape.
The easiest aspects of culture to see are at the artifact level. Artifacts are the visible manifestations of culture, that is, the physical environment, styles of dress, ways of interacting, modes of operation, and so forth. These are usually what a person first notices about an organization. If you walk around the campus of my university, you’ll see small classrooms, most with the latest technology. You’ll see students sitting in the quad connected to the Internet through the campus Wi-Fi. In classrooms you’ll find a crucifix on the wall and in the center of the campus a statue of St. Joseph and the boy Jesus. From these artifacts you can come to some conclusions about our culture. Some of your conclusions might be right but others might be wrong. Sometimes it is difficult to infer deeper meanings from artifacts only.
If your job takes you in and out of businesses, you know how different businesses can be. Ask the pharmaceutical rep who spends the day going from one physician’s office to another. Ask the truck driver delivering goods from store to store. Ask the temporary worker who works in different offices from week to week. If your job does not take you in and out of businesses, especially businesses like the one in which you work, you may not notice the cultural aspects of your workplace that outsiders do.
The young e-commerce company had a good business plan but needed more capital to move to the next level. Jed, a friend of the founder, had a contact, Harold, who could help. Harold examined the financial data and the business plan. A meeting was arranged at the site of the e-business. Jed, who had visited the business several times, toured the business with Harold and the CEO. Harold met the key members of the leadership team and talked with several of the employees, mostly newly minted software engineers. Harold seemed pleased with the answers to his questions.
After the visit, Jed turned to Harold and asked, “So what do you think?”
“Jed, I wish them the best – but not with my money. Did you see that place? I’ve never seen such a mess. Papers and trash everywhere. I don’t know how they can work like that. What they need is a janitorial service but I’m not convinced they would use it.”
The mess Harold saw in the offices reflected the disorderliness of the founder. The founder had built the business working around the clock and living in this office. As the business grew, nothing changed. He had never really thought about it. He really didn’t care. Consequently neither did his employees. The papers and trash were just part of the environment, part of the background. But to the outsider used to orderliness in a well-run business, the disorder was very noticeable and raised questions about what else might not be in order.