Reading Time: 3 minutes

All executive teams are running two businesses – the one they have now and the one they want in future. Organisational culture could just as easily stand in the way of progress as enable it.

It affects everything a business does. For this reason, talk about safety culture or asset management culture or any other type of domain or discipline specific culture is misleading. You can’t create a good safety culture inside a poor organisational culture, but you can shape an organisational culture so that it is enables safer. Success, whatever it means, either doesn’t happen or cannot be sustained if the culture isn’t conducive to it.

This is not hair-splitting. Where organisational culture is concerned, terms and definitions make all the difference. A lack of clarity in the way organisational culture and culture goals are defined is common and explains why many so-called culture change initiatives have fizzled out so quickly.

Clarity starts at the top. Executives either shape the culture to support the business or suffer the consequences. To shape it they need to be able to describe what they’ve got and what they want in ways that make the differences obvious. If they don’t do this, or their efforts to are cloaked in academic or management speak, the odds on them convincing others to stop, listen and pitch in are not good.

Sometimes it takes a catastrophic accident or loss, or a new owner or an angry customer or a hacked off regulator to get the executive serious about reshaping the culture. Clients for our culture surveys have come to us in all these situations, sometimes brought to us by one of their clients or a regulator concerned about a worsening trend.

We developed our CAS Culture Management Model out of years of research and its hands-on use with executive teams of transport and infrastructure businesses and the engineering, labour and equipment suppliers they rely on. It starts with two simple causal relationships:

  1. Top teams define cultural goals and their role is then to bring workforce attitudes and beliefs into line with these so they can be enacted and then bring the way things are done into line, so they can be embedded in people’s work performance and behaviours.
  2. The main influences on workforce attitudes and beliefs is the alignment between cultural goals and incentives and the visible, consistent, passionate commitment of managers at all levels to the cultural goals, while the main influences on work performance are management systems and the way operational pressures are handled.

We use the model to identify the current organisational culture which we describe by plotting it on four main dimensions: authoritative-participative, insular-openminded; cautious-innovative, process-outcome. Using our toolkit of executive workshops, data analysis, workforce survey and risk assessment we characterise where clients stand now and then help them describe where they would like to be in future.

Modern executives don’t tend to stick around for long, they have points to score and career moves to make. Shaping organisational culture does not sit well with this agenda. It takes time, it takes resolution, it takes consistency.

Many organisations have cultures that were formed long before their current leaders were appointed. So, the next time your Chief Executive asks “what’s the single biggest risk to our strategy?” the answer could be, “you and the other directors moving on and your replacements tearing up your plans”.

The CAS Culture Management Model is widely used and recognised as a key reference by UK Government. Our Culture Surveys are highly flexible – clients can license our questionnaire for their own use or commission us to deliver the full toolkit, analyse the results and everything in between.

Contact xxxx for a confidential initial discussion of your needs.