Tenet 1: Culture is Defined by Actions

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Last week, we looked at the Definition of Culture. This week, we’re going to chat about RoundPegg’s 5 Culture Tenets. Our slideshow will give you a sneak peak of the topics we’ll be discussing in more detail.

Tenet 1: Culture is Defined by Actions

Culture is not whether employees wear ties or tie-dye or bring dogs to work – it is
more elemental than that.

Earlier this week, we examined the 3 different types of culture that people commonly talk about. At RoundPegg, we like to use a simple definition of culture to start:

Cul•ture [kuhl-cher], noun, how work gets done in your company.

By this definition, culture means everything: how you interact with one another, how decisions are made, how you prioritize, how solutions are uncovered and how rewards are determined. Culture prescribes how we behave on-the-job, whom we hire, who gets promoted and who does not. The aforementioned perks are by-products of culture, but do not define it.

This is where people most often misunderstand the true meaning of the concept of organizational culture. At its most basic level, culture is defined by the actions of each and every employee within the company, from the bottom to the top and vice versa.

Values are what drive how work gets done, and every individual in your organization has a personal values system. Every interaction an employee has paints part of the picture of how things get done. And the worker’s personal values dictate their role within the interaction.

It’s understandable that some may mistake culture for its offshoots – things like a keg in the kitchen or a casual dress code, but these things are just “symptoms” of a company’s culture. Take the example of being able to bring dogs to work – that characteristic is more likely to mean that a company is less formal in their day-to-day functions, but the act of bringing Fido to work does not make a company’s decision-making process informal.

The values of your employees drive their actions, which, in turn, define culture.

A most obvious example of individual values driving actions is the classic Enron example – which has been discussed for years as an example of what not to do. To summarize for some of our younger viewers, Enron was an energy company based in Houston known for spending lavishly for parties and trips. Enron executives used “accounting loopholes, special purpose entities, and poor financial reporting, to hide billions of dollars in debt from failed deals and projects.”1 In the end, shareholders sued the company and people went to jail. The negative values and loose morals of these executives eventually bankrupt the company and put thousands of good people out of a job.

To make this example even more disappointing, one of Enron’s core values was Integrity which drives home the importance of making the connection between the Aspirational Culture and then the Actual Culture of your people (once again, see 3 types of culture post).

Stay tuned for Thursday as we’ll feature a story from RoundPegg Board Member and former CHRO of Southwest Airlines, Libby Sartain.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enron_scandal
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