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Why organizational culture matters

It seems that everyone is talking about culture

Source | | Allan M. Stewart

It seems that everyone is talking about culture—from the Toronto Blue Jays to the RCMP, but few people really know what culture is. And even fewer understand what shapes a culture—or more importantly—why business leaders need to pay attention to it.

Culture is the combined attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviours of the organization, or what is universally understood in order for members to “fit in”. It basically covers how we are expected to think and act in a particular organization. These norms cover everything from simple practices such as; “how long are we away from our desks at break time” to complex ones such as; “what should we do if we have an idea about changing something”.

Culture is not a measure of employee satisfaction or employee engagement – those measurements are the result of culture. Nor is culture a measure of emotions. Many companies still describe their “culture” using emotion adjectives such as “fun” or “a happy place to work”. Some companies erroneously describe their culture based on their operating strategy, such as “fast-paced” or “customer focused”. None of these definitions or terms describe what behaviours or attitudes are expected from members. 

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