Organisational culture makes a promise of organisational performance

"Culture is not in support of strategy, culture is the strategy in great organisations."

                Jim Collins

"Sure, we can talk about culture as something soft, but it is by far the hardest thing to change in an organisation."

Cultural development is not for sissies

We often meet people who talk about organisational culture as something fluffy and soft that is only dealt with when the culture has had a major negative impact on the organisation or if there is little time left in an organisation. However corporate cultures is what brings an organisation to life and gives us an idea of its future performance. While we can talk about culture as something soft, it is by far the hardest thing we have to change in an organisation. Wise management plans for and develops culture and thereby creates positive effects on many levels: better performance and achievement of goals, more satisfied customers, better managers and employees, more enjoyable workplaces, more efficient, innovative and productive, just to name a few. Research on organisational culture clearly shows its effect on performance. These are staggering figures and make me wonder even more why so few boards and management teams really take responsibility for culture development.

A culture in a high performing organisation compared to a low performing organisation is;

  • 350% better at getting people to bring out their positive sides and perform better.
  • 250% better at creating a climate favourable to innovation.
  • 300% better at having a culture of strong co-operation
  • 200% better at action and responsibility
  • 150% better at being obsessed with creating value to external customers
  • 150% better at prioritising product development and growth

(source: i4cp)

"When organisational culture is so crucial to an organisation's success and performance, it is surprising how few organisations actually have a plan for their culture."

What is organisational culture?

If we were to concoct an explanation of what culture is, it could be "how we usually do things in our country". We see it when we travel, for example, how different one country's culture can be from another. It is exactly the same between the cultures of different groups. In an organisation, we often have different cultures between different groups. Nothing strange about that. We call it dialects, where the organisation has a well-defined overall culture that applies to the whole and with local dialects between different groups, departments and countries.

For a long time we have been using the machine metaphor as a model for the organisation: "A good organisation is like a well-oiled machine". Have you heard that too? Nothing could be more wrong! The word organisation comes from organism not machine. The organisation is a complex ecosystem that has different types of life within it. A machine has an "on and off button" but we mammals are not machines. We have biological needs and behaviours that affect us and define who we are. An ecosystem is something that is alive and, in other words, something we can absolutely influence.

All too often we see "we have the culture we have" as something we have been given and that culture has a life of its own and cannot be changed. Most people also agree that culture does affect performance.

  • In a survey by Deloitte, 82% say they think culture is an important competitive advantage (of which 54% think very important).
  • 19% in the same survey say they feel they have the "right" culture for the future.

When organisational culture is so crucial to an organisation's success and performance, it is incredibly strange how few organisations actually have a plan for their culture. To make a good cultural plan that will result in better performance, we need to understand more about how we humans work, what influences us to perform better or worse. We need to understand more about the organisation's context, inner and outer life and how we need to face the future in the best possible way.

Organisational culture should not be an obstacle to human and organisational performance but a place for everyone to grow and develop!

Want to know more about how we can help your organisation in culture and performance development?

Feel free to contact me at