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Why organisations need a cultural transformation

By Memory Nguwi

EDGAR Schein (2004) looks at organisational culture as “the pattern of shared basic assumptions — invented, discovered, or developed by a given group as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration — that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems” (Schein 2004, p17).

According to Hofstede (1991), “culture is the collective programming of the human mind, which distinguishes the members of one organisation from another” (p180).

It is evident from these definitions that culture is built through shared learning and mutual experience.

Culture cannot be about one person but a collective experience by people adapting to their environment.

Organisational culture can have dire consequences for organisations if not managed well.

Have you seen organisations failing despite being given all the resources they need? Organisational culture matters more than any other resource when it comes to driving the performance of the organisation.

  • When you experience some of the signs below, you must know your organisation requires culture transformation.
  • When the organisation has consistently underperformed despite you putting all the necessary support and resources. A culture can be a significant constraint even to the most prolific leaders.  A bad culture can humble you regardless of your track record elsewhere.
  • When the organisation consistently fails to meet its strategic goals. If you have gone for countless strategic planning sessions and still less than 40% of agreed strategies are not achieved, you are likely to be a good candidate for culture transformation. Most organisations fail to implement their strategy largely because they have a bad culture.
  •  When the top team is divorced from what is happening on the coal face. In this case, the leadership will be out of touch with the concerns raised by key stakeholders such as employees and customers. The leaders will be failing to prioritise the issues that need urgent attention.
  •  When employee engagement is very low. When the organisation consistently scores employee engagement levels below the essential benchmarks.  The good thing about measuring employee engagement is that it gives you pointers to the issues that may affect your culture. These issues need to be addressed as soon as they are raised.
  •  When there is conflict between departments — persistent conflict between various teams or departments could signify that the organisation has now reached a toxic culture level. In such an environment gossiping becomes an acceptable mode of communication.
  •  High staff turnover — a hostile culture could trigger a high turnover of employees or a particular group of employees. Any turnover above what is considered normal by industry benchmark standards is a sign that the culture may have turned bad and need to be changed.
  • When leaders resist digitalisation — technology has so many benefits that could help the organisation prosper. If you find yourself  in a situation where the leadership resists introducing technology, it’s time for culture transformation.
  • When the organisation’s leadeship blames outside factors for poor performance. If the leaders start blaming outsiders for people for poor performance, you must know that your organisation is a good candidate for culture transformation. The practice of blaming outside factors for poor performance, unfortunately, brings complacency into the organisation. This complacency is reinforced when the board accept such excuses as genuine.
  •  When malpractices are accepted as normal — in some organisations paying bribes, corruption can be viewed as normal practice. If the leadership is not concerned when such things happen, the organisation is ready for culture transformation.
  •  Poor customer services — if your organisation is known for poor customer service on the market, it’s time to look at culture change. I am sure you have been in situations where poor customer service does not bother the leadership in an organisation. When planned and done well, culture transformation can bring life to an organisation struggling with all the ills outlined above.   The decision to go on a culture transformation journey must be taken at the board level.  Anything short of board endorsement will not work.

Nguwi is an occupational phsychologist, data scientist, speaker, & managing consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and human resources consulting firm. — https://www.thehumancapitalhub.com  email: mnguwi@ipcconsultants.com.

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