What is a Healthy Organizational Culture?

All organizations have a culture—a set of values, assumptions, and norms—that guide what the organization does and especially how it goes about doing it. This may affect the kinds of people the organization attracts, the way it serves its customers, how it relates to its larger stakeholder community, and the very approach it takes to delivering its services and products.

The organization’s culture may or may not serve the ultimate good of the organization—a culture that results in a high degree of employee turnover may be costing the organization its institutional memory. An organization that creates undue stress may ultimately cost the organization the vitality and creativity of its members.

In the final analysis, a healthy organization is one in which the culture supports the organization’s mission, vision, and strategy.

Can Organizational Culture Change?

Organization cultures vary in the degree to which they are embedded. Some organizations have cultures have a deep history that make them harder to alter; other organizations by their nature are more resilient and adaptive to their larger environment, making those cultures more readily changeable.

Increasingly, organizations are recognizing the need to change their cultures in response to an accelerating rate of change in many arenas…

  • Technology is offering greater opportunities.
  • Competition is forcing higher levels of performance.
  • Customer/consumer expectations are expanding given the range of options that are available.
  • Generational change in the workforce with different needs and expectations from their employment.

While some organizations have struggled with culture change, it is clear that given a compelling need, leadership commitment, and effective help and support, organizational culture can and does change.

How to Foster Organizational Culture Change?

To change an organization’s culture requires a strategy that has three core components…

  • Assessment of the existing culture.
  • Anticipation of the forces that will be driving the organization in the future and identifying the cultural requirements to meet those forces.
  • Developing strategies and tactics to bring about a change in culture.

Each culture change strategy must be developed specifically for that organization; further there must be a recognition that culture change is usually a long-term investment. Therefore, an organization contemplating culture change must commit to…

  • Conducting a cultural audit that will help create a compelling case for changing the culture.
  • Engaging key stakeholders in developing a robust culture change strategy.
  • Following through on the strategy including regular assessment of the culture and modifying the strategy over time.
  • Ensuring that leadership is fully bought into the culture change and is modeling the new culture in their own behaviors.

I have been conducting culture change efforts in a wide variety of organizations for the past 35 years; these have included changes due to new technology, competitive pressures, workforce changes, and others.

Cultural Change Clients Include…

  • Visiting Nurse Association and Care Network
  • Hospital for Joint Disease
  • Mount Sinai Medical Center
  • Northern Westchester Hospital
  • USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
  • Booz Allen
  • Department of Energy
  • NASA
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • National Reconnaissance Office
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