Corporate Culture: Visioning and Aligning

Aligning Culture with Organizational Values

Production. Results. Engagement. Leadership.

Take some time, sit back, close your eyes, and create an image in your mind of your ideal organization. What features immediately pop into focus? Is is the individuals? The collaboration? An atmosphere of excitement and real engagement?

Most importantly, are you picturing your actual organization? If not, why?

I recently facilitated a senior leadership visioning session, in which I used this exercise. Following a brief group meditation on these questions, the executives were asked individually to jot down on Post-Its the five key images that came to mind. From these, a comprehensive leadership culture vision for an “ideal” company was discovered.

Within much of corporate America, a stereotype exists of what a “great place to work” looks like. There’s an ideal that paints a fairly universal, yet remarkable generic vision of organizational culture – a populist vision propagated in the pages of business periodicals.

The allure of the populist vision of organizational culture is that it’s typically propagated through stories of the Googles and Zapposes of the business world. And they are both attractive and exciting examples of well-defined and executed cultures. But they are Google’s and Zappos’s cultures, not necessarily your organization’s.

The Challenge

That your company isn’t the next technology start-up with the beer keg employee lounges, sleep pods dotting your corporate halls, or the next billion dollar IPO, isn’t the problem. Rather, it’s that too often, in attempting to mimic populist, corporate culture rhetoric, leaders spend too little time determining the unique set of cultural values around which they want their production capacity to be centered. The result is a misalignment of their personal ideals and cultural values with that they are trying to instill.

Rule #1 of any Organizational Culture Shift

The leaders of the organization must BELIEVE in the ideals guiding the change.

The cultural visioning exercise above provides a wonderful way to envoke the personal dreams and cultural values of the individuals making up an organization’s executive leadership group. It forms a collective “dream” of what the organization’s culture should look like, not from the descriptions provided by the Harvard Business Review, but from the actual beliefs of the actual company leadership.

When leadership has aligned it’s beliefs with a vision of the organizational culture, that culture becomes a defining guide to every decision within the organization. From product, service, recruiting, retention, and employee and leadership development, the driving principles of the unique organizational culture provide the path along which all else flows. And trust me, when cultural vision and leadership values are truly aligned, workforce engagement, buy-in, and commitment DO drive performance.

So, go out and make your organization’s culture your own…imagine your “ideal” company culture, and then create it.

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