I was recently delivering a risk management webinar course. These days you cannot speak about risk management and not touch upon the importance of resilience. From a risk management perspective, for organisations to improve their resilience they have to:-
● gain awareness of changes in the external and internal environment, so that constant attention to resilience is ensured;
● ‘prevent, protect and prepare’ in relation to all types of resources, including assets, networks, relationships and intellectual property;
● ‘respond, recover and review’ in relation to disruptive events, including the ability to respond rapidly, review lessons learnt and adapt.
All 3 aspects, listed above, but most of all the third one, are based on one thing and one thing only – CULTURE.
But how can organisations be resilient by being aware of the changes taking place around them, if they are engulfed in a culture which is inward looking as if the whole universe starts and finishes with them? How can organisations be resilient and respond rapidly to disruptive events if they keep pushing and feeding a control culture based on massive single point of failures and centralised authority rather than an open and trust based culture based on empowerment?
Hence, the importance of culture.
I think that urgency for a new culture-building approach has never been higher. A culture in which everyone in the organisation is responsible for building the culture of the organisation and whereby a shared responsibility for culture throughout an organisation involves different people and functions playing different roles in developing and maintaining the culture. At many business organisations there is a gap between the existing culture and the “desired” culture — the culture needed to support and advance the company’s goals and strategies, the culture that is needed to build resiliency in such trying times.
In a new culture-building model, everyone is responsible for cultivating the desired culture. While the actual implementation of this approach may vary based on the type, size, age and structure of the organisation, the general distribution of responsibility should be like this:
- Board of directors: Guide the definition and development of the desired culture, ensuring that it aligns with business goals and meets the needs of all stakeholders.Culture can be an asset as well as a risk to an organization. So, the board must play a more active role in culture-building. It 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 and engaging ongoing conversations with the CEO/owner and the head of Human Resources about culture priorities, strengths, gaps and challenges.
- CEO and senior management team: Define the desired culture and cultivate it through leadership actions including setting objectives, strategies and key results that prioritise culture-building; and designing the organisation and its operational processes to support and advance the company’s purpose and core values.
- HR: Design employee experiences that interpret and reinforce the desired culture. They also implement training programs that develop capacity for culture-building and employee engagement and develop processes such as performance management and reward systems such that nurture the desired culture.
- Line, Unit or Section Managers: Deliver employee experiences that interpret and reinforce the desired culture and cultivate employee engagement with the desired culture. Leaders in the middle layers of an organisation’s hierarchy, such as department managers, wield the most influence on employees’ daily experiences and 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’re 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 employees’ day-to-day work-life represent the company’s employee experience strategy. This can be done by communicating and role-modeling the desired culture and also conducting coaching and training with employees to cultivate their engagement with the desired culture
- Employees: Provide input to senior management team on their understanding of the desired culture and what culture-building training and tactics they would need. They would also providing insights on how the desired culture differs from the actual culture and how this difference effects both customer experiences as well as their own performance and expectations.
The shift to a culture-building approach based on shared-responsibility both requires changes in the nature of organisational culture/ Such a shared approach shows that organizational culture has become less a code established by leaders and more of a toolkit for all to draw from and input to. As employees engage with the culture as a resource from which to shape their skills and habits instead of a mandate decreed by top managers, culture becomes expressed through practice.
A company’s culture needs to be adaptable. There are many external factors exerting pressure on any business as well as internal changes such as leadership transitions. The culture needs to change to keep up with these changes. Attempts to lock in a certain type of culture over the long term at best will fail; at worst, they will hinder the organisation’s competitiveness and sustainability.This points to a key requirement of the shared-responsibility approach to culture-building. Changes to the culture must be explicitly communicated and vetted by all. Everyone may not agree with the changes, but they must understand them and agree to support them.
To achieve the desired culture, everyone must have a clear, consistent, common understanding of it — and everyone must work together in a deliberate and coordinated effort to cultivate it. While each person or group is accountable in their own way, everyone shares accountability for achieving the desired culture. If the pandemic has not proved anything, it has proved that the job of the CEO and senior management team is not to hand company culture down from on high but to prioritise it and allocate the resources to ensure it.
So is your culture helping you to become more resilient and respond to change in rapidly and adapt quickly? if the answer is no, what are you waiting for to start working on achieving a desired culture that will make your business resilient? Another pandemic?
At EMCS, through our dedicated coaching service, we specialise in analysing the alignment of the organisational culture with the company’s strategic goals and how this culture supports or otherwise the need to build the needed resiliency. We take a very direct approach in understanding the issues and gaps with the current culture and work with management and employees to achieve a desired culture across the whole organisation. Feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to have a simple chat on all this.