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Workplace Culture: A Case Study

If you think culture is just a business buzzword – think again


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Culture is representative of the values, beliefs and assumptions that guide the collective behavior of employees within a company. It is not defined by the words that a company chooses to showcase on a wall somewhere.

Culture is not only the attributes that can be seen by the world such as jeans versus suits or beer kegs and ping-pong tables; it is also the way things are done around the office when we think no one is looking. It is unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs and assumptions of each team member within an organization.

Whether or not you are intentional, deliberate and consistent about building and engaging your culture – it exists – and is impacting your business performance. 

When we think about culture at ICC, and measuring culture, we think beyond employee happiness, flashy perks and extravagant office surroundings. Companies that have chosen to participate in Best Companies to Work For in Colorado are looking to get intentional about building a Best Company to Work For culture. 

Using the Denison Assessment, ICC examines four basic traits that link to organization performance —mission, adaptability, involvement and consistency—and the performance metrics include such things as profitability, sales growth, customer satisfaction, innovation and market value. For example, a recent study of 130 firms has demonstrated the link between culture and organizational performance. Companies that tend to score high in the four traits also score high financially, while companies that lack clarity and alignment in the four traits are financially weaker. This is not just a survey or collection of items; this is an organized, informative, intuitive model that allows one to discern patterns, not just individual scores.

A clear understanding of organizational culture is important for all leaders because it influences the way that their organizations react to the changing demands of the business environment. At any given time, the culture of an organization is strongly influenced by the past successes and learnings about how to adapt and survive. As the business environment changes, leaders must constantly anticipate the necessary changes and actively monitor the relationship between the demands of the environment and the capabilities of the organization.

When there is a “gap” between the capabilities of the organization and the demands of the business environment, most successful organizational changes require changes in the mindset, values and behavior of the employees. Without creating these changes, changes in basic capabilities of the organization are impossible. That is why many organizations are discovering that successful change requires careful attention to the values and beliefs that are the “heart of the company,” the policies and practices that put those values into action, and the importance of teaching the members of the organization an understanding of how they create value for their customers.

Here is a case study of another participating company. When the executive team of this legacy manufacturing company looked at the company results , there was a long silence. The president, who had spent his career in operations, said, “Well, I admit that I’m not a visionary or a strategist—I’m the guy who makes the trains run on time.” When they focused on the results for consistency, they agreed that their emphasis on internal control made it difficult to react to the marketplace. They agreed that they had strong core values, but they also questioned whether they were the right core values for the future. One of the executives even said: “Our core values are perfectly suited for meeting the challenges of the 1980s.” Finally, when they looked at their results on team orientation, one of them concluded, “We’re a team all right—we’re all going down together!”

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ColoradoBiz staff

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