The Benefits of Positive Cultures
Fewer quality defects
What is Organisational Culture?
Organisational culture is the set of visible artefacts, espoused values, and embedded assumptions that shape individual and group perceptions, influencing attitudes, and predicting behaviours.
Of these, it is assumptions that have the greatest impact on performance. This is because assumptions are the unconsciously embedded beliefs that significantly predict individual and collective behaviour.
The culture of an organisation is not, however, a homogeneous entity; the complexity of an organisational culture reflecting the complexity of its organisational structure, with each organisational subgroup, e.g., functional teams, project teams, subproject teams, work groups, satellite facilities etc., developing its own subculture.
This means that organisational culture is in fact, a complex multi-layered construct of overlapping subcultures, the values and assumptions of the individual subcultures having the potential to complement, compete with, or contradict those of other subcultures.
The Importance of Leadership
This cultural complexity is unavoidable given that every group and subgroup has a leader, and it is leaders that define cultures. Consider this in the context of a balanced matrix organisation where there are multiple leaders; from the Board to the CEO, to Functional Managers, to Project Directors, to Sub-project Managers, to Facility Managers, to Supervisors and Foremen.
Whilst these leaders should theoretically be strategically and objectively aligned, competing subgroup values and assumptions mean that this is often not the case, and where there is misalignment there is the potential for conflict and mistrust. It is in this context that it is important to recognise that the influence of the global leader may be diminished by the influence of subgroup leaders.
This emphasises the importance of developing a sustainable, aligned, and collaborative, top-down approach, where there is trust in leadership, common values, and unconsciously held common beliefs; all of which predict behaviours conducive to achieving common organisational objectives.
What is Psychological Safety and Why is it Important?
Psychological safety is key to the development of a positive organisational culture.
Psychological safety is characterised as an individual and group perception of the consequences they would face in identifying deficient group or individual performance and is significant in determining the nature of the organisational culture.
Perceptions of psychological safety are effectively, a product of trust in leadership.
A psychologically safe environment is a trusting and supportive environment, where people feel secure enough to identify deficient performance without fear of retribution for themselves or others.
It serves as the catalyst for the development of a learning culture, which is in turn, key to the development of a positive organisational culture.
The cultural complexity is further complicated by social factors which influence individual and group attitudes. These factors are numerous and varied, and include everything from social networks to socioeconomic status, to age, to nationality, to education, to religion. Amongst the most significant of these social factors is National Culture.
National Culture refers to innate general characteristics associated with a particular nationality and it is an important consideration when developing a global and/or culturally diverse organisation as it enables us to recognise, understand, accommodate, and occasionally mitigate, those national characteristics with the potential to influence or impact operational performance.
The positivity of an organisational culture sits on a continuum, with the fluid and dynamic nature of the influencing factors demanding continuous assessment of the condition and causes of underlying attitudes that drive behaviours and performance.