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How Do You Analyze Organizational Culture? 3 Steps for Success

When you assess your organizational culture, you will be looking at the values, beliefs, and behaviors of leaders and employees. While some characteristics of your culture may be evident, others may be harder to define. It can be a challenge to analyze organizational culture, but it is a worthwhile exercise because understanding culture can help you identify which aspects of it are working and which may need improvement or transformation.

Examine Key Attributes of the Organization

A helpful way to analyze company culture is to explore some of the key attributes of the organization, such as how decisions are made and how employees feel about change initiatives. While each organization’s culture is a mix of different attributes, here are some examples that will facilitate a deeper understanding of your corporate culture:

Leadership involvement: Leaders are often key catalysts for driving a particular kind of culture. They model corporate values and deliver feedback that shapes employee behavior. When looking at organizational culture, it’s helpful to observe whether leaders demonstrate the behaviors that are needed to support the culture or if they take a “do as I say, not as I do” approach.

Decision-making: When you examine the role of critical analysis and the degree to which multiple stakeholders have a voice in decision-making, you can pick up useful clues regarding the type of organizational culture that exists. For example, centralized decision-making may be more prevalent in a hierarchical culture, but, as one researcher points out, the same organization may have pockets of consensus-driven decision-making.

How people communicate: How employees communicate internally says a lot about your culture. It can be helpful to observe not only the most common forms of communication (for example, whether most employees communicate face-to-face or via email) but also the degree to which open, honest, and two-way communication is common among employees and leaders.

Openness to innovation: When analyzing culture, it’s helpful to note how the organization approaches risk and evaluates new ideas. A culture of innovation is not limited to start-ups. As one venture capitalist notes, innovative cultures in companies of all sizes share attributes such as embracing risk, accepting failure, and routinely experimenting with new ideas.

Approach to learning and development: A culture of continuous learning is typically one where employees and leaders seek out opportunities to acquire new skills and knowledge that will help them improve their performance. To better understand your culture, examine the variety of learning and development opportunities available to employees and how they respond to the opportunities.

Approach to change management: Change is the great constant, and how organizations approach it is an important characteristic of company culture. If leaders and employees resist change or rarely talk about it, that could be a sign of a more rigid culture. Alternatively, if change is welcomed and the organization has a strategy and detailed processes for managing it, then a more flexible culture may exist.

3 Steps to Successfully Improving Your Culture

Every organizational culture has room for improvement. Here are three steps to successfully implementing changes to your corporate culture:

#1. Identify culture gaps: With the aid of tools like surveys and culture assessments, conduct a gap analysis to fully understand the culture you have and how it compares to the culture you want. A gap analysis not only helps you define the existing culture, but it can also deliver new insights into employee attitudes and beliefs that might have been previously unknown or misunderstood.

#2. Develop a plan for the new culture: Once you’ve identified the desired culture, it’s important to develop a strategy for achieving it. Transforming corporate culture often requires new skills training to help leaders and employees develop the behaviors required to succeed.

#3. Reinforce the new culture: Sustained culture change requires that leaders continue to model desired behaviors and leverage the skills and knowledge they’ve gained to support their employees. The use of reinforcement tools can also significantly help. These tools include mobile boost learning, multi-rater assessments, and culture impact scorecards that help manage culture on an ongoing basis.

Build a Thriving Culture

Culture is unique to each organization and analyzing it is a process of observation, asking questions, and using tools to identify a variety of organizational attributes. Regardless of the type of organizational culture you have or the one you strive for, it’s necessary to provide employees with the required skills and knowledge for adjusting their behavior. Depending on your size and the degree of culture transformation  you’re trying to achieve, there are a variety of tools available to help you successfully analyze your culture, and if needed, change it.


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