How can we create organisational culture?

Tools & Trends Video
5 mins


Organisational Culture ensures that everyone in the organisation aligns with its core principles, establishing values within a team and enforcing them.

In this video, the team discuss the key elements of organisational culture, examples of it in practice and what important factors will help you get it right.

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So, how can we create organizational culture?

I think we need to start by saying what culture is, first of all, and my favourite definition is culture is how we do stuff around here. And that's the kind of challenge, is that it just occurs in some cases.


So do you think that most cultures are planned?

No, not at all. And this isn't just in working environments. This is in families. This is in clubs, all those kind of things. You develop a culture, right? I love that. Can you imagine planning your family culture before you have a family? Actually, I would say if you look at the marriages that last a long time, they have kind of rules of like conduct and etiquette. And so, I run two businesses with my wife, you have to set some boundaries of how you're going to speak to each other and all those kinds of things as well. And I think that's the key thing, is that you need to look at how you're going to operate, how you do things, how you speak to each other and so on, so that you can create the culture that you want.

It can be done and I've seen it being done, but you have to start early. Because the bigger you get, the harder this becomes because you end up with a culture anyway, you always do. And you have to reset really hard sometimes.

So I've been going through this with a small company at the moment. Actually, they put a lot of time as a team establishing that. What are we trying to achieve? What do we stand for? What are our established values? And it was important to do that as a team. Because they were already at a size where, actually, unless the team will buy into it, it just becomes another one of those platitudes that everyone ignores. Yeah, you have to buy in. That's exactly it.


So can you give us an example of an organisation doing this?

The best one, always, because there's so many examples, is Google. Where Google, from the very outset, said, we are not a normal company, we've got no intention of being one. And they have all these different practices that instil the culture.

And I think this is what you're trying to do, to go through and say,if we're going to try and make ourselves an innovative company. What does that mean? We need to come up with new ideas all the time. Okay, how are we going to do that? Well, we're going to give our engineers 20% of their time to go through and work on their own projects. That's culture.

Or they say we're going to give away free food. Why? Because it's a great benefit and because brings people together that wouldn't normally be sitting together. So those are kind of examples of you put some practical steps in place to try and instill something. You can't just say we're innovative and just assume it's going to happen. You have to do something to make that happen.

Well, I do work for a small beauty company and they had this thing they called the precious recipe, which was literally the correct ingredients for the company. And it was a set of principles by which the whole company was run on. And I think when you see this very strongly ingrained [literally, I know the founders, whenever they faced any difficult decision, all say what does the precious recipe tell us we need to do] That's brilliant. When you've got something like that that really enshrines it, that's magical. And I can tell you it was an incredible place to to to work because those values were they were enforced. They were an actual thing. Like you could feel them when you walked into the place.


So what about an example of an organization getting it wrong?

This is one of my favorites.

This was a massive UK telecoms company and they went, right, we are changing offices. We're filled up with cubicles. We want flat hierarchy. We're gonna have open plan offices. No offices for the managers. And you're gonna come in, sit in different places each day. You're gonna work with different people. It's gonna be amazing. So what happens? People are creatures of habit, right? They come in on day one. They, instead of having their desk set up, they have these lockers. So what do they do? They get their laptop and they set up in the same place every single day. And then they start to get fed up putting their stuff in the lockers.

So they start putting up pictures and stuff and just leaving their stuff out on the desk. So no one's moving around, no one's hot desking. Then the shocking bit was that the leaders went, I want an office. So they would just block book a meeting room for a year. So then what happens is that that's their office, no one else can book.

And that's the leaders not setting the culture appropriately. And what it meant is that you can give people the physical space, but then you need to install, and this all comes from leadership, to set behaviors, to tell people how it operates. If you do that, it works, but you need leaders to set an example from that point of view. So, if you say, we're going to hot desk, leaders need to sit in different places every day as well. So you've got to go through the use cases to make this stuff work as well.


So what's it most important to do to get this right?

I think you need to think purposeful culture. It's not just letting things evolve, it's actually saying, these are the principles and values that we're going to live by.

This is the type of organisation we want to be. How do we create behaviours that achieve that? And then how often do we review that and make sure that we are going back and doing these things and living it? So it needs to be iterative as well. And it has to be led from the top down. Completely. Without that, it just rots really quickly on the vine. I've seen that time and time again.


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