Stop blaming culture, take responsibility for your strategic cultural development.
"Culture eats strategy for breakfast".
I (and no doubt many others) have often heard this expression in management rooms, sometimes as an explanation for failed change projects or timetables that don't work. Another variation on the same theme is "things are in the walls" and the old classic "this is the way we've always done it - it can't be changed". Common to all these statements is a view or perception that organisational culture is something that has arisen from somewhere and cannot really be managed or changed.
"Another variation on the same theme is 'things are in the walls' and the old classic 'this is the way we've always done it - you can't change it'."
In light of various reports on financial difficulties in the public sector, the need for digitalisation, difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff, and the introduction of new trust-based governance, I ask myself what the public sector needs to focus on to overcome these challenges.
For very necessary reasons, the public sector is regulated and governed by a set of rules to ensure legal certainty, predictability and equal treatment of everyone who comes into contact with public organisations. This is a difficult balance between control and freedom. There are many examples of how a rule-based approach leads to excessive micromanagement and target management on steroids (many targets, conflicting targets and micro-level targets), which instead leads to poorer performance.
Instead, we need to work strategically and systematically to change the public culture. To create a culture that is focused on the customer (the user) and the core mission, something that the work of the Trust Delegation also shows.
I am convinced that the public sector needs to work on its organisational culture in order to succeed with the challenges ahead. You need to work actively to create organisations that employees want to work in, develop and be part of.
I believe that the economic challenges may not need to be addressed primarily through savings and reductions in service levels, but rather by developing organisations to create environments where performance is promoted, encouraged and celebrated. Allow all public sector employees to use their skills and expertise in the best possible way. Create a focus on performance and results rather than method and policy.
"Organisational culture needs to be mapped, planned and managed in the same strategic and long-term way as other issues within an organisation."
It is no coincidence that organisations such as IKEA and Google manage to be successful and attractive companies. Instead, they are reaping the benefits of long-term, strategic work on culture that has moved away from the idea that shared values on paper alone create positive change. Organisational culture needs to be mapped, planned and managed in the same strategic and long-term way as other issues within an organisation.
Instead of planning the next organisational development where new boxes, managers and governance models are expected to create a sense of progress and energy - perhaps your next mission should be to invest in a long-term development and strategy of your organisational culture? A culture that creates the innovative power and change activity that will be necessary for the public sector to meet its challenge and its important mission in the future.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast - but only if the two are not linked. Organisational culture must support strategy and needs to be managed as strategically and long-term as other key development issues. Let's create the municipal dream culture together.