Why Organizational Culture Matters
By Johan Bester
The first book
that officially addressed organizational culture, was The Changing Culture of a
Factory, by Elliott Jacques, in 1950. It seemed that the need to assess
organizational, albeit factory cultures, were a hot potato back in the day. I
have not personally read the book, and I doubt that I ever will. However, since
the early 1920’s the topic has been revisited, researched, and covered in
dozens of books, articles, and white papers. Why then the need to discuss the
topic any further? Haven’t we done enough to fix our companies’ culture? Must
we continually tweak our corporate rites, rituals, and symbols? The fact that
we are making money should be testament to a healthy organizational culture.
The quick answer to these questions
should simply be ‘yes’! Some companies might even argue that they have gone to
great lengths to improve their organization’s culture with those team building
exercises, family braai days, or the odd Casual Friday, being fundamental to
their bustling success. In short, these diversions may help the cause, but
cannot ensure it.
longevity to it. In most cases, the fun day organizers will get a pat on the
back, and someone in HR will post a picture or two of happy, smiley people all
getting along, while up-to-date evidence and research states otherwise.
Currently we are
in one of the most interesting times we ever encountered. The Covid-19 pandemic
exposed some cracks in the way we work, but even more so, it aided us in making
some unusual work decisions. With the great reset came the great resignation.
Never have employees upped and left jobs like they have been right now.
Suddenly the prospect of working remotely makes sense and is not frowned upon
either. The future of companies now lay within the hands of employees who sit
behind their computers and do sales, close deals, and manage their teams, all
from the comfort of their homes.
this possible, and notably, employees became aware that their stress-,
anxiety-, and burnout levels dropped substantially. They do not have to concern
themselves with office politics anymore. Most can carry on doing their jobs,
and some even report working longer hours than usual! Work satisfaction has
It is generally taught that to survive
in the modern business world, you must have a good product, speak to a tangible
need, provide a real solution, and have a clear idea as to why and what you are
in business for. Experts are right in saying this, and all the above mentioned
are fundamental to the success of a business, but it also made me think: what
if you have it all locked down, and are still dealing with high staff turnover,
petty and often brutal office politics, absent or those
pretending-to-be-present-but-not-really-employees, office gangs, information silo’s,
high levels of distrust, suspicion, and fear?
These words speak
volumes when it comes to assessing a toxic work culture. When they are in play,
the free lunches, car washes, and drop-off services do not matter anymore. Good
employees run for the hills, and you get stuck with the stragglers holding on
for dear life. Bad news spreads quickly, and hiring new, better talent becomes
a tedious process, as they generally tend to avoid toxic organizations. The way
we do business needs to undergo swift changes.
There is a
wonderful passage in Proverbs 24:3-5 that reads: “Any enterprise built by wise
planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by
keeping abreast of the facts”. Organizational culture, in fact, requires just
that – wise planning, common sense, and keeping abreast of the facts. Once
leaders overcome the initial inertia to change will the process become somewhat
I’ll leave you with this question: When
do you know you are in a healthy organizational culture? No, it’s not the free
lunches, high wages, or the perks everybody talks about. When you discover the
answer, you will also know why organizational culture matters.