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    All eyes are on culture as the cause and the cure.

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    Culture is the tacit social order of an organization: It shapes attitudes and behaviors in wide-ranging and durable ways. Cultural norms define what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted, or rejected within a group. When properly aligned with personal values, drives, and needs, culture can unleash tremendous amounts of energy toward a shared purpose and foster an organization’s capacity to thrive. When aligned with strategy and leadership, a strong culture drives positive organizational outcomes.

    A common panacea for organisational ineffectiveness is to "fix the culture", however culture isn't something you 'fix'. At the Gold Coast HR Symposium, Craig McFadden shared practical case studies demonstrating that culture change is more likely to be achieved when it includes transforming the way we organise the business and designing new systems to motivate people to perform at a high level.

    Craig highlighted that cultural change has to grow out of distinct business practices, new processes or structures to tackle tough business challenges and must be more than a series of well-meaning HR practices.

    Culture is being blamed for most implementation and execution problems with "culture trumps everything" claims without the empirical evidence to back up those claims. Wharton management professor Larry Hrebiniak says this argument can create a "culture trap" - a very narrow way of thinking about culture and its role in organisational problems that can lead to poor decisions and frustrations as managers try to affect culture and culture change with the wrong methods.

    Hrebiniak says, "culture is important; it definitely can affect behavior and performance outcomes. But it's also important to realize that behavior and performance affect culture; culture is not only a causal factor, it's also a dependent variable affected by other critical execution-related factors. Incentives, structures, decision processes, behaviors, people, and controls affect and shape culture. It's important to understand these dynamic interactions to fully comprehend culture, how to manage it, and how to avoid ineffective, knee-jerk reactions to change it." Simply appealing to managers to change behaviors, thinking, values, and beliefs rarely works.

    A healthy, productive organisational culture is a defining element of business success. Leaders who treat the need for a culture change as a “simple add-on” to the other things they need to do, will have missed the point that your culture is the reason you will succeed or fail.

    Edgar Schein (Professor Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management) one of the foremost experts on culture, recently suggested that “culture is a bottomless pit of questions and problems' and that Leaders shouldn’t focus on culture change, rather Leaders should focus on business problems.

    The cover story of the April 2016 Harvard Business Review is titled "Culture is not the Culprit." The sub-title is "When organizations are in crisis, it's usually because the business is broken.”

    The article provides a number of case studies and a concise recap of business challenges faced by a range of CEOs. While the challenges were different, there is remarkable similarity in the path to success. Steps include:

    • Define the vision, goals, and objectives: What is core to success, what is the current performance, and how will the organization know it's on the right track?
    • Set the pace and align the structures:
    • They then set expectations and aligned recognition, pay/incentive, and reporting structures to be in sync with their vision.
    • Celebrate the new: Share stories of actions and results that are consistent with the vision.

    The steps above closely parallel the process Savvy uses to help clients set a new direction, transform their culture and improve performance.

    Shaping the #culture of a company can be an extremely complex, long-term endeavour. By having an open discussion of what has to change, and then delivering it; transformation can indeed occur.

    Thank you for reading our post. We regularly write about PEOPLE MANAGEMENT, ORGANISATION DESIGN, CAPABILITY AND CULTURE. If you would like to read future posts then feel free to also connect via TwitterFacebook,  LinkedIn and Savvy HR.

    About the author: Craig McFadden is the founding director of Savvy HR. Craig's clear, practical counsel and ability to influence others into action and to rethink traditional HR practices with a business oriented lens, has gained him credibility with CEOs and executive leaders and he is frequently called on to serve as a strategic partner with the primary focus of defining, building and influencing the talent within leadership teams to drive business objectives.

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    Craig McFadden's clear, practical counsel and strong influencing and relationship building skills have gained him credibility at both the executive and line manager level and he is frequently called on to coach managers through complex industrial relations issues, termination or redundancy matters, performance reviews or to prepare for discussions with difficult individuals and team members.

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