Why Care About Culture

Over the last 3 posts I have re-introduced culture, explained it as an onion, and explored the cultural web. It’s now crunch time – why care about culture at all? Culture is dynamic and monolithic, made up of deeply-held assumptions and embedded in corporate DNA. Many authors have tried to discredit the idea of cultural change as a strategic move. They recommend tailoring strategies and tactics to fit the existing culture instead.

So, why care about culture? I will skip the textbook answers this time and share my personal view. I care about culture because it affects how well I can do my job.

Keep in mind that culture is not something that only large organisations have. Each and every one of us has an individual culture that is shaped by our life experience and environment. Hence, we bring our own cultural values to the organisation we work for. Two things can happen between your personal culture and organisation culture: either they mostly match, or they mostly don’t.

If they match – great! But what if it doesn’t? Then one’s options get murkier. I try to avoid getting into this situation by researching the culture of the company I’m considering joining. I can look through their website, the tone of their public communications, how their office is laid out, and how they conduct their interviews. This helps me flesh out a cultural web analysis. Granted, I will never be able to get a complete picture but I now have better tools (and so do you!) besides the generic interview question: “So… what’s the culture like?”

I then ask myself, “Can I fit the culture of this place?” There will never be a perfect fit, so the real question is more like, “Can I adapt to the culture of this place?” For example, trust is an important ingredient for me to work at my peak, and so I don’t think I’ll do well in a place where I am required to punch in/out and do minute-level tracking of my work. I would personally consider that a form of micro-management and it wouldn’t fit my way of working. I very much prefer to be entrusted with a task and I’ll deliver a quality result in the allocated time.

On the other side of the interview table, it also helps to understand that candidates bring their culture with them and so we need to evaluate if their culture will fit the role being hired for. My opinion is that skills and qualifications are a small part of the interview process. Knowledge and skills can be learnt, but their personal culture is mostly fixed. Some attempt to evaluate this via psychometric testing. However, professional opinions of its effectiveness vary, and I do not yet know enough to form my opinion around it.

In summary, yes, you really should care about culture if only for the sake of making sure you’re with the right company. That is what I found most useful about understanding culture. There are bigger questions left to answer - “How can I meld organisational culture to my own?” is one that comes to mind. We’ll leave those for now and come back to the topic of culture at a later time.


540 Words

2016-04-10 07:43 +1200