Organisational culture is important because it’s like a sausage machine

Organisational culture is like a sausage machine
Ask any leader "why is organisational culture important?" and they will probably tell you that it's because it's the total of beliefs, principles and values. They'll let you know that the culture of any workplace guides the way employees behave and interact with clients and customers. They will tell you culture is one of the most important building blocks for success and performance. So why is it like a sausage machine?
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Organisational culture is like a sausage machine because whatever you put in at the top everyday determines the taste at the bottom every time.

If you saw a green slime with a horrible smelly vapour rising from it would you go near it? No. You would run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. So why is it we don’t have the same reactions to toxic elements of our work place culture? Why is it that as smart people and leaders we sometimes overlook this in our own organisations?

Is it that the short-term benefits of living with it outweigh the risks of having to deal with it? We all know that changing unwanted behaviour, even if it goes against the company values is hard work. Or could it be the simple truth – it’s easier to settle for a lifetime of dysfunction than moments of discomfort?

Only you can answer that question. What we do know is this. Your organisational culture is like a sausage machine. Whatever ingredients you put in at the top will determine the taste at the end.

Whilst you're chewing on that here's 20 pieces of advice about organisational culture:

  1. People can hide behind the word culture and use it as a self-limiting excuse. For example, “it’s part of our culture and we are trying to change it but it’s too difficult.”
  2. Changing culture is difficult but it is possible. It’s possible because culture is all about people and people can change.
  3. Some people say, “That’s not in our culture” what they mean is we don’t want to do that. We talk a good game but we don’t want to change.
  4. Culture is not a “one size fits all” concept and is about the way things get done. The real question is was it designed to be like that or did it evolve into that?
  5. Stop talking about cultural change and start conversations around changing habits, beliefs and behaviours. Together they make up the way things get done and that equals culture.
  6. Asking “what habits, beliefs and behaviours we need to change around here?” focuses on the differences you can make today. It also has the advantage of breaking the task down into manageable parts.
  7. A culture that was right for the past may not be right for the future. Your current culture may work for older generations but will it work for millennials?
  8. An unattended culture will evolve whether you like it or not but sometimes, the best advice is to do nothing at all. Sit back, use the time to re-charge and reflect on what you see. Now based on what you see ask yourself, what do you want to change? Why do you want to change it? What difference will it make?
  9. Human connection is the fundamental core of evolution. It always has and it always will be. If you want your organisation to evolve then ask yourself how connected are our people?
  10. When we connect, share, and bond with each other, work becomes more than just task. It becomes about the human experience, teams feel empowered, work is a great place to be.
  11. It’s generally not what you have to do, it’s who you are doing it with that counts. That’s why culture matters.
  12. In your 1:1s with your people do you focus on task or emotions? For most, it’s the former. What does that say about your culture? That work comes before the people. If so it’s the wrong way round.
  13. Leaders need to be accountable for sending a clear message about acceptable behaviours at work. Acting in ways that undermine that message is hypocritical and undermines leadership credibility.
  14. Strategy is about intent. Culture is about habit. It’s culture that drives or drains people’s energy for change.
  15. The biggest thing we observe that is missing from many cultures is resilience. How would you rate your culture for resilience?
  16. A culture low on resilience has high potential for burnout.
  17. Wellbeing is an output of culture. Concerned about wellbeing in your organisation? Examine your culture.
  18. Without investing in culture you will not attract top talent.
  19. Allow a culture to become toxic and you create a risk. A real and tangible risk to your brand and your bottom line. People leave and you struggle to recruit talented people because of your reputation. Or you pay people more to shut up and put up. Both erode value rather than create it.
  20. A toxic culture allows people to behave in a way that suits them. A winning culture steers people to behave in ways that suit us. The difference between the two is them and us.

And so, we come back to the start.

Your organisational culture is like a sausage machine. Whatever ingredients you put in at the top will determine the taste at the end. If you took a bite of your culture sausage right now, what would it taste like?

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