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Digging Into Culture at Work

Ahealthy culture is the starting point for any successful Improve your organisation culture  organisation just as good soil is essential for a successful garden. If you have ever worked in an organisation with an unhealthy culture you will understand the impact culture can have on performance. As a leader, digging into your culture can be a very revealing exercise that you should do on a regular basis if you want to keep your organisation healthy.

So what makes up culture, how do cultures vary and what can you do to improve them?

What makes up a culture
Organisational culture is a complex mixture of elements, not unlike the complex mixture of elements that make up soil in the garden. You need to get all of them in balance or you won’t get the result you want. These 5 layers of organisational culture are:

Organic layer
This represents what people see, the outcome of your culture. Are your visible results the equivalent of productive plants or are they more like annoying weeds?

Top soil
What people do to demonstrate your values including how they act towards each other and respond to situations. It also represents the practices that get rewarded.

Sub soil Improve your organisation culture
What staff, clients and suppliers say about the organisation, almost like the subtext of the organisation. It is also what the organisation says about itself in the form of written policies and procedures that express its values.

Parent material
How you want people to think. The mindset you want your people to have based on your values. This will inform what they deem important and where they channel their efforts.

Bedrock
How you want people to feel about the organisation. In other words, the values you want them to live by that support everything you do.

Think for a moment about your organisation. Can you identify how people feel and think, what they say and do and the results you see from this? If you want to get more insight into how your people view your culture, here is an interesting activity that is bound to open your eyes.

Ask people to give a few words that describe your culture in the past (say, 2 to 5 years ago), in the present and what they would like it to look like in the future (say, 2 to 5 years from now). This exercise can highlight the areas where work is required.

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