Within the last few months I have had a number of discussions with organizational executives in which the executive raised a question regarding vision and/or mission development, establishing core values, changing or creating an organizational culture, developing an effective employee performance appraisal system, enhancing employee accountability, or improving employee retention.

While the executives in each of these discussions was starting at a different focal point, in each conversation the executive’s overall focus was on how to improve the organizational environment to one in which employees were productively engaged in accomplishing the goals of the organization.

As a result of those discussions along with my observations during three recent projects in which we facilitated a vision and mission development process, conducted an organizational needs assessment and provided training on implementing an effective performance appraisal system, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to the readers of “Contemplation Corner” if I did a series of articles dealing with building or reshaping an organization’s culture.

Before launching into such a discussion, it might be wise to define the phrase “organizational culture.” According to Business Dictionary*, organizational culture is defined as: “The values and behaviors that contribute to the unique and psychological environment of an organization. Organizational culture includes an organizations expectations, experiences, philosophy and values that hold it together, and is expressed in its self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world and future expectations. It is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid. Also known as corporate culture, it’s shown in:

  1. the ways the organization conducts its business, treats its employees, customers, and the wider community,
  2. the extent to which freedom is allowed in decision making, developing new ideas, and personal expression,
  3. how power and information flow through its hierarchy, and
  4. how committed employees are towards collective objectives.”

“It affects the organization’s productivity and performance and provides guidelines on customer care and service, product quality and safety, attendance and punctuality, and concern for the environment.”

While every executive wants his/her organization to have high performing employees who accomplish the organization’s goals and deliver a quality product, many leadership programs, workshops on culture, and staff development programs only deliver short-term results which soon fade away as employees return to the old way of doing things.

How then does one build an effective organizational culture?

Over the next few months, this column will explore the building blocks for creating an effective organizational culture.

A Clear Purpose and Meaning

In his article, “5 Characteristics of a Great Company,” Lee Williams of Success.com wrote, “Behind every winning organization is a unique identity, one that sets it apart from others and gives employees a strong sense of belonging, ownership, value and meaning. They know their work matters, and that feeling inspires them to create passionately for the company.”

The organization’s mission should be the common purpose that is the driving force behind everything that they do.

Organizations with a great culture have a mission statement that:

  1. Clearly defines the purpose of the organization,
  2. Answers the questions about why the organization exists:
  3. What does it do,
  4. For whom does it do it, and
  5. What the impact of doing it is,
  6. Is written succinctly in a few sentences, and
  7. Is something that all employees should be able to articulate upon request.

Every executive should measure the organization’s mission statement against the criteria stated above.

Before you look at the mission statement for your organization and measure it by those criteria, let’s practice by looking at the mission statement for Mel Brown and Associates, which is “to equip individuals and organizations to accomplish their visions, missions, and goals.”

Looking at that statement, can you identify the purpose of Mel Brown and Associates? What does MBA do? For whom does it do it? What is the impact of what MBA does? Is it written clearly in a few sentences? Is it something that all employees should be able to articulate upon request?

Having a well-written mission statement is a great place to start in building or reshaping your organization’s culture, but that is just one step. Over the next few months, we will explore what has to happen in addition to having an effective mission statement in order to build a great culture for your organization.

Building or Reshaping Organizational Culture Part 1