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Evaluating the Culture of an Organization

Evaluating the Culture of an OrganizationWhen I am asked by a client to help them evaluate the culture within their organization, there are two steps I take:

  • Evaluate the organization informally (interactions among people)
  • Evaluate the organization formally (processes and procedures)

To do both well, I spend time within the organization getting to know the individuals. This includes traveling to all offices of the organization as one office can be quite distinct from another, especially within organizations that have merged and acquired others.

By interacting with the individuals within the organization I learn about them on a more informal basis. I do this by walking the halls, meeting with people individually and hanging out in the cafeteria. Through these more casual, informal interactions with employees I can learn the following:

  • Physical layout of the office space
  • Amount of collaboration that happens and how it happens
  • How employees interact with each other throughout the day
  • Time employees spend in casual conversation with each other
  • Amount of time spent in the cafeteria or getting coffee (do people leave their offices to eat together, go for walks, etc.)
  • People’s expressions and tones as they walk through the halls from one meeting to another

On a more formal basis, I meet with employees via group (department) meetings, send surveys to employees, review the mission statement and vision statement, past employee engagement surveys, as well as other company documentation, and formally ask them about how it is to work at company xyz. I learn the following:

  • What happens at department meetings – how involved are the employees
  • How involved in the organization do employees feel overall/how committed are they
  • The strategic goals of the organization and how well known they are among individual contributors
  • Processes around decision making
  • The true hierarchical structure within the organization (where does power reside – formal and informal)
  • Use of company portals and other internal sites
  • How ideas are generated

A combination of both informal and formal methods enables me to learn a lot about the culture of the organization. This information is used to determine if the organization is on the path it wants to be on to accomplish its goals or if changes need to be made to better engage employees within the business and move to a culture that supports the goals and strategy of the organization.

Culture change does not happen overnight! It takes time to accomplish. I have found it most effective to make small changes initially to get folks to see the difference a small change may make in improving the culture of the organization. This gets them engaged in moving forward to make additional changes to improve the culture.

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