Med One to One Summer / Fall TWENTY TWENTY ISSUE 64

The Complexity of
Cultural Convolution

Written By: Grady Brown

The Complexity of Cultural Convolution

Much is written and said about organizational culture. Understanding it, defining it, teaching it, and promoting it, are often priorities for business leaders. Understanding organizational culture can be a hard thing to get your hands around. Great efforts and often substantial expense are devoted to these priorities with the lofty hopes of attracting and retaining employees, galvanizing employee efforts toward focused goals, and in routing resources to ends consistent with organizational objectives. Sometimes you just have to step back and take a breath, as you try to wrap your mind around what all of this really means, and what your particular role in this mishmash is? Whew!

To add additional fuel to this muddle of confounding confabulation is the pressure to correctly apply organizational culture to decisions, people, and priorities. Years ago, I was waist-deep in these matters and found myself complaining to a co-worker. Now, every once in a great while, you get a piece of concise information that parts the fog and clears the way to understanding. He said to me, “culture is how your organization gets stuff done.” Holy smoke, that is the kind of clarity that is worth the price of admission!

This definition cuts through the morass of what your organizational culture actually is, versus what you want it to be. The definition opens wide the door to dissect culture and clearly define its many parts, history, and various meanings. After examined, if you like an aspect of your company’s culture, it is easy to articulate it and promote it. If your review produces an undesirable organizational trait, once again, it provides easy access to define a better path for change.

"It is often the small and simple decisions that define culture. They are the nails that hold your organization together."

Earlier this year, I had an experience in which our company culture and established policy came in conflict. I had begun the process of compiling a list of employees that would be eligible for our quarterly performance bonus. One of the eligibility requirements is that an employee must work the entire quarter. It happened that in Q1, a new employee started work on the first working day of the quarter, but it happened to be the second day of the quarter. Consequently, his name did not appear on my report as I pulled it from the employee records. When the matter was identified, we confronted a fork in the road, one path leading toward consistency and process and the other path toward the right way to treat people. It didn’t take long to realize that the employee had met the criteria of working the entire quarter even though he wasn’t technically employed the entire quarter. The culture of valuing employees was upheld and fostered.

Similarly, an outstanding employee was recently considered for a well-deserved promotion. The established procedure would include a review of this advancement during our Annual Salary Planning process. Since that will not conclude for five months, announcing the change now with its associated compensation adjustment is the right way to treat people. Again, the culture of valuing employees was upheld and fostered.

It is often the small and simple decisions that define culture. They are the nails that hold your organization together. So, as you consider your current responsibilities, how are you getting things done? Are you getting them done in the way that you want? What are some small changes that you can make? Do you consider the treatment of your internal and external customers differently?

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