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Corporate culture, one to go, please.

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by Driven Organization

Corporate culture, also known as organizational environment, is extremely important, we have all been told. It is what glues all organizational processes, what keeps employees satisfied and energized, what causes innovation and discovery, what leads to improvement and success, and it is the only competitive advantage that cannot be copied. We definitely want one. Where do we get one?

Ma'am, I want an organizational culture that is fun, tight, and very productive. Do you home deliver?

Ridiculous, right? Perhaps as ridiculous as the man that eats 2 whoopers, 1 large fries, 1 large coke, and ice cream for desert and wants to lose weight by taking a pill or changing his coke to diet. Unfortunately, this is how we look at it.

The gurus and strategy consultants don't help much with our problem either. They say we must choose a motto, such as "We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen,” the Ritz-Carlton's Motto. Then, hammer it to everyone in every single interaction we have. Put it in screensavers. Tell them constantly to follow it. We must also have some core values that support it. The motto and values must be visible at all times, be part of orientation, and be reinforced at any subsequent training.

It sounds fine, but does it work?

Many modern corporations do exactly what is described above, but there are very few organizations with a great or even a good culture. In most modern organizations, workers go to work and try to do their best, be friendly, work hard, and make the best of things, but somehow we find ourselves stressed, tired and demotivated. There is a heavy bureaucracy permeating every aspect of the job, and functions or geographic offices pull toward different directions. It doesn't seem we have created a great culture. What is missing?

A good organizational culture is so great because it works underneath the overt practices of the organization; It works under the water. It is not something explicit. It may be that to have one, we won't be able to build it in an overt way either, as it is suggested by the gurus. It may be that we have to lure it in, to let it be, trying not to scare it, as if we were to befriend a wild animal.

Before we do that, we must take a look at how the environment is shared among workers. Have you heard about mirror neurons? These are the neurons that make us smile when somebody smiles at us, and that make us laugh when somebody is laughing. This is why sitcoms have people in the background, laughing. We all have them; it is a natural human reaction to be caught in the feelings of others. A person that comes to work singing and happy will elicit a positive reaction from his coworkers. If 5 workers feel this way in the morning, they can transmit their energy to a group of perhaps 20. Imagine that 30% or 50% of the people feel that way, the entire organization is moved. Now, we are onto something. Even if we don't get every single person to come to work every day energized and happy, the rest will help them get there. The right organizational environment starts with the individual. 

But then, how do we make workers energized and engaged? How do we make them come to work excited for what will take place that day? These are the things we must have:

Purpose. This is the reason for existence of the organization that goes beyond generating profits. For example, Google attemps to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Googlers know that their every day efforts have an enormous impact on building a better world and that, my friends, rattles their heart. Management's role here is to help each worker see how his particular efforts translate into helping the organizational purpose advance forward. 

Autonomy. We let the worker do the job without constraints and controls. He is in charge of that job and he has full authority over it. Workers do well because they are motivated from inside, not because the boss is watching over them.With full trust, responsibility and accountability, workers surely correspond the trust they have been given. This obeys to the human natural reaction to want to give retribution to those that give us gifts or do something for us. In this case, the worker feels gifted with trust and will gift back the organization fulfillment of that trust.

Competence. Management must help the worker learn. In reality, learning is what makes anything interesting. It is perhaps the main reason behind every one of our hobbies. Researchers have proven that even monkeys have a natural desire to learn, even if the learning is not conducive to a reward. The learning can be about the job and about other unrelated things. It has also been proven that by bringing unrelated learning, professionals do much better in their regular activities. It is as if the unrelated learning somehow sifts in into their regular activities and brings innovation and improvement, as well as more employee engagement. 

Strategy. We let the worker take part on the decisions regarding the direction of the company. He is a cell, a unit that by doing his job contributes to the well being of the entire body. Cells are independent entities that often make complex decisions, always having the body's "purpose" in mind.

Salary. The worker is endowed a fair payment. Salary is the easiest way to demotivate a worker by giving him an unfair salary. There are many techniques and tools for organizations to make sure that the salary is perceived as fair for workers. 

These points above (that we have quite briefly discussed) are what at the DrivenOrganization.com, we call SPACES, which are the necessary components to build an engaged organization, guaranteed. They will naturally lead to an amazing organization culture or to a great "Environment," as we call it, that energizes each worker's heart and helps people stay in the flow.

When people believe in the same thing, for example, when they share the reason for their work or purpose, they tend to trust each other. When people trust each other, they become friends. From there, the environment is already on its way.

With the components described above, in this environment of trust, engagement, and working for something significant, workers reach their entire potential and build a strong organization that is full of great work, creativity, energy, and fun, which is something very few of us have today in our modern business organizations.

Tags: culture, SPACES, Environment
Published on 09 Oct. 2012

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