“The collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another,” is Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede’s widely accepted definition of culture, simply describing something so complex.
However, our thesis on culture goes beyond traditional academic frameworks and incorporates a wider school of thought.
For example, alternative culture definitions include the perception of how we do things – Greek philosopher Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do.”
This phrase can be effortlessly transferred into a working environment: organisations are fabricated on regular processes, practices and business choices. How an organisation conducts these endeavours can ultimately define their culture.
If the culture is positive, productive and backed up by the work of employees, then along with values and strategic direction, organisational culture is the glue that holds companies together. Otherwise, it could spell trouble.
To effectively explore culture, we, at the other half have developed our own ‘need-to-know’ framework.
It is a simple model that helps map out the dynamics and direction of an organisations’ culture and to compare and ultimately align with its strategies and values.
1. Knowing where you have been:
When looking at your organisation’s culture, the past is the first port of call.
History will point to signature experiences and routines embedded in its DNA, whether good or bad. In fact, both are just as useful in understanding how you have arrived at today.
2. Knowing where you are:
Where you think you are, is often very different from where you actually are, so here at the other half, we conduct interviews with personnel within your organisation and use thematic analysis and coding to decipher the cultural dynamics of your organisation.
That current culture is particularly important to be aware of; it could even provide context to critical pieces of information and results, as we all are aware, culture eats strategy for breakfast.
3. Knowing where you want to go:
Comparing the culture you have against that which you want is a process just as important as any.
This allows you to see the flaws in your current setup, whether they are linked to your processes, personnel, or something quite unexpected.
Then, with this information, a simple starting point would be to compile a checklist of the common practices the business can use to foster an enthusiastic, committed, mission-aware team.
Organisational culture is notoriously an important factor in the success of sports teams. As an example, we look to a team that the world has always been in awe of.
Rugby is an everyday part of New Zealand culture, feeding the All Blacks global success. The country’s indigenous Māori tribes inspired the team’s menacing pre-game Haka routine, while Kiwi-born Sky Sports presenter James Gemmell suggested that traditional, intense inter-school rivalries are deemed to have sparked a competitive edge and built All Blacks players of old.
Today, the culture remains, as rugby in New Zealand is everywhere you look. James Kerr wrote ‘Legacy’, looking at the 15 principles that made the All Blacks so good, from preparation and sacrifice to whānau and whakapapa culture.
On the field, England rugby has since matched the All Blacks record 18-game winning streak and defeated the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cup champions to reach the final last year. South Africa now top the world rankings after lifting the Webb Ellis Cup trophy for the third time, drawing level with New Zealand’s world cup tally.
These recent years suggest that, if I dare say it, the All Blacks are not as dominant as they once were. Yet, some will argue that this is down to on-field talent, which rises and falls dramatically in the international game.
However, with a culture such as theirs, the All Blacks will seldom be far from success. The world has also been watching and learning; after failing to qualify for the knockout stages of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, England took inspiration from the All Blacks culture shift to change their own and come back to win the tournament four years later (more on that in a future blog).