Values are universal, culture is a one-off

Blog
18 July 2018
Values are universal, culture is a one-off

Is too much time spent on developing values, at the expense of getting to the guts of the company culture?

A number of these values may not apply to your organisation, but you’d be hard pushed to dismiss any of them as not being valid.

Values are an important feature of company culture, but how important are they?

To me, company culture is less about values and behaviour, and more about purpose.

This of course begs the question, what is culture? Here's my take.

Culture is a mish-mash of:

Values – I'm including beliefs and principles here as they are often used interchangeably

Behaviours – more important than values, they are tangible expressions of culture

Legacy – who we are now is influenced by where we have come from

Story telling – often, but not always, informal/spontaneous/unscripted

Individuals – the personalities, quirks, worldviews, habits and dispositions of everyone in the company

Physical environment – the bricks and mortar

Systems and processes – help to keep order and get things done

Purpose – why we do what we do

These elements play off against each other. Some will play a lesser or a greater role depending on the organisation.

Culture isn’t neat and tidy. It can be described, but it can’t be prescribed. It is a tone, a mood, a sensation. It is organic.

Culture is a balancing act between; personal autonomy and collective accountability; structure and fluidity; normality and arbitrary; internal preservation and external forces; the heart and the head.

Sounds a bit like a person.

For the moment I've sidestepped talking about purpose. It's a discussion that will have to wait for another post.