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Culture is not a thing, it’s action. Culture is not intention, it’s behavior. Culture cannot be delegated, it’s everyone. There’s a lot that goes into an organization’s culture, but the simplest operating definition I’ve come across is “culture is the way things get done around here.”
Culture is a byproduct of behavior, so maybe we should worry less about “culture” and more about how things get done. Are we actively building trust, strengthening communication, and creating productive relationships? Do people feel welcome, do they feel like they belong, do they feel like their efforts matter? Are we rehumanizing work or dehumanizing it? Are we treating people with dignity and compassion AND setting high expectations? Is it easy to do good, hard work or is it hard to get anything done at all? Is management an enabler or a barrier for creating meaningful results? Do processes speed things up or slow things down? Is everyone working for a common goal or is it a bureaucratic free-for-all of silos, fiefdoms, and turfwars?
Life really would be so much easier if we could delegate company culture to someone on the HR team or outsource it to a vendor, if we could just purchase a bunch of tire swings for the lobby, and mandate wacky fun. Except we can’t. No matter how hard we try, no matter what the sales pitches and whitepapers say, no matter who we copy, culture is always about people and how they interact with each other.
Culture isn’t something separate from the work, it’s how we do the work. How do you want things to get done on your team, in your department, at your organization?
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