Resource Development Associates

Organizational Culture

By Patricia Marrone Bennett, Ph.D. 

Every organization has a culture. Peter Drucker, considered the father of the field of organizational development, once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In other words, culture is much more powerful than the best laid strategy in achieving organizational success. Consequently, it is important to commit the time and the resources necessary to examine how answering the following questions can help us learn to develop a positive organizational culture.

  • Who are the leaders of the organization and what do they believe?
  • Are the actions of leaders aligned with what they say they believe?
  • What actions or activities get rewarded?
  • Is communication encouraged at all levels of the organization – even when it is criticism?
  • Do people speak directly to each other or do they talk behind each other’s backs?
  • Do people feel engaged in the work they are doing?
  • Are problems constructively addressed or are they swept under the rug?

If, for example, we examine the type of culture that might result from failing to constructively address the poor performance of an individual or team, we may find that people perceive the management to be unfair or incompetent. It may be a signal that people do not know how to be accountable. Lack of accountability in an organization can create feelings of confusion and distrust. While building organizations where there are trusting relationships will foster positive organizational cultures, building organizations where people do not trust each will establish negative organizational cultures.

Organizations that work hard to intentionally foster a positive organizational culture are more likely to attract and retain the workforce they want, maintain greater productivity, and achieve higher levels of organizational effectiveness. We believe it is critical to spend time examining the answers to questions that can influence culture, like the ones above, to ensure the success of the organization.

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