BusinessDay

More about culture (2)

We have been talking about culture building and we are looking closely at different people’s roles. Continuing from last week.

In the meantime, I hope you are all well and that entering the second half of the year has met you ready to roll and ready to chill with the big boys. Maybe you are the big boys? Whichever way I am wishing you the very best in this season of consolidation.

In this new distribution of culture-building responsibilities, let’s look at two groups that may be less well-understood: the board of directors and middle managers.

Culture can be an asset as well as a risk to an organization. It has been said that culture is the glue that binds an organization together. It has a very significant impact on the organisation’s effectiveness, ethics, and governance.

The board cannot have a view on the fitness for purpose of the firm’s culture. We all however know that boards are often not actively engaged in culture-building.

In some sectors and organisations, the average Managing Director tenure has decreased relative to board member tenure. MDs can be there for half the time Board members are there. So, boards have a greater longitudinal perspective to inform the purpose of the company and to assess the organization’s delivery on it. Also, because of strategy and business reports that boards of directors are increasingly expected to enforce, accountability on issues such as purpose, mission, and core values, it is imperative that they are involved in the culture building process.

The board should guide the definition and development of the desired culture, ensuring that it aligns with business goals and meets the needs of all stakeholders. The board carries out this responsibility by designating culture as a regular agenda item during board meetings. By engaging ongoing conversations with the MD/CEO/Owner and the leads of HRM and Compliance, Risk and Ethics about culture priorities, strengths, gaps, and challenges.

By commissioning culture audits and assessments and reviewing results and indicated actions. By considering culture leadership capabilities in succession planning and senior officer recruitment. Also, by vetting and approving public statements about the organizational culture

In many organisations, the boards have been highly instrumental in ensuring the organization’s performance is aligned to its values. Board members in such organisations regularly engage in conversations with executives, among board members, and with staff in seminars on particular issues — about the changing context of the organization’s work vis a vis external issues and what it means for achieving its vision and strategy.

In such organisations board members have begun asking questions about risk differently. Instead of narrowly focusing on their own technical responsibilities and simply asking, if everything is nice and safe, directors have adopted broader oversight for their organization’s culture and enhanced influence on risk management. By asking What risks they are taking and they can they be minimized, directors are able to make more informed judgements about the level of risk the company embraces.

Leaders in the middle layers of an organization’s hierarchy, such as department managers, store managers, and program leaders, wield the most influence on employees’ daily experiences, so they play a critical role in company culture. However middle managers in many organizations are not usually empowered to influence culture to the degree that higher-level leaders are and they are often overlooked in culture-building efforts.

Middle managers can and should play a critical role in cultivating the desired culture by, ensuring the tools, environment, and intangible aspects of the employees’ day-to-day work life represent the company’s employee experience strategy. By applying the organization-wide culture-building objectives, strategies, and key results to the context of their group or function. By conducting coaching and training with employees to cultivate their engagement with the desired culture and by communicating and role-modelling the desired culture.

There was a case study that struck me by the critical influence of middle managers on culture-building. While a corporate culture-change initiative met with resistance from employees for whom the old culture and processes were ingrained, one operating unit successfully adopted the new culture thanks to its savvy management team.

These managers established accountabilities for certain actions, sanctioned other behaviours, and devised and enforced new metrics in support of the new culture. They were able to get traction where the organization’s senior leaders weren’t because their methods for culture-building were commensurate with their roles as middle managers.

Culture building is therefore all our responsibilities and should not be the MD’s or HRM alone. I hope this culture building thing is getting clearer. We must all be involved because it has a direct correlation to the bottom line.

Have a great weekend.

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