Culture Defines Value 

Culture Defines Value

|Culture Defines Value

Leaders need to View culture as a unifying framework for decision making and achieving shared purpose

Many leaders recognise that culture is a critical factor in determining the success of their organisation. However, by not really understanding the fundamental role that culture plays in achieving this success, leaders can often implement the wrong types of interventions in an effort to shape culture.

Culture, in essence, shapes the mindset of people which impacts their decision making and, therefore, the behaviour of people within an organisation when the leader is not in the room. Culture is the framework responsible for driving the majority of people’s activities, which ultimately drives the direction and performance of the organisation.

Culture Defines Value

Conversations around culture tend to begin with the definition of what is perceived to be valuable to an organisation. This is because any organisation’s sustained existence is predicated by a fundamental economic principle: they need to be perceived to be adding value to their members, their customers and other key stakeholders. The essence of this principle is often lost when “values” are defined, and more importantly when they are translated to different levels in the organisation.

An example of this is when integrity is defined as a value within a bank. For instance, “why” is it economically critical for a bank’s employees and customers to have a shared value of integrity to ensure the sustainability of the bank, and the community that it serves? A bank’s whole business model is based on the ability to consistently demonstrate this value if customers are going to continue to trust its employees with their money. The connection to the value i.e.. Integrity, is its economic value and the “right” behaviour to drive the right decisions in delivering the right sustained value for all stakeholders, which is often lost in translation. Values become wallpaper, rather than a set of principles that shape behaviour.

Culture Shapes Mindset and Choices / Decisions

The values in a culture play a critical role in shaping the mindset of employees, because mindset is value centric. If I perceive something as valuable, by default I will treat it with a higher level of care and this will shape how I think about it, and the level of attention I pay to it. If I do not fully recognise the value in it for me, or for the customers or other stakeholders, my perception, or the level of attention that I give something, will be impacted. Not understanding the “real value” of “integrity” in shaping the “economic” success for myself, and the organisation, would mean that I have the wrong mindset. Embedding the “real value” for myself, the organisation and other stakeholders is fundamental in shaping mindset. Mindset shapes the mostly unconscious decisions that people within an organisation make moment to moment. These choices shape the actions of people and hence can often lead to what happens when the leader is not in the room to model, direct or shape these behaviours.

An Organisational Culture is a Collection of Individuals and Sub-Cultures

Importantly the values that underpin an organisational culture need to evolve and adapt to different operating realities within organisations. Attempting to prescribe the “real economic” value of a value to all individuals and teams in an organisation is often where the first disconnect happens,  leading to values that fail to shape the mindset of all employees. Reverting back to the banking example above, what integrity may mean for sustained success in one area may subtlety but