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Testing Your Organizational Culture


Testing Your Organizational Culture

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Testing Your Organizational Culture

Sometimes Wikipedia gets it right and sometime not. This time they did well. As an organization that spends a good deal of its time immersed in the sometimes intense work of helping clients build lasting, positive cultures we spend a good deal of our time trying to explain what on earth "culture" is.

testing organizational culture

What do you think of these definitions?

Organizational culture is the behavior of humans who are part of an organization and the meanings that the people attach to their actions. Culture includes the organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors and assumptions that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving, and even thinking and feeling. Organizational culture affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders.

Ravasi and Schultz (2006) state that organizational culture is a set of shared mental assumptions that guide interpretation and action in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for various situations. At the same time although a company may have their "own unique culture", in larger organizations, there is a diverse and sometimes conflicting cultures that co-exist due to different characteristics of the management team. The organizational culture may also have negative and positive aspects.

Schein (2009), Deal & Kennedy (2000), Kotter (1992) and many others state that organizations often have very differing cultures as well as subcultures.

Last month we went a little "historical" on you and gave you glimpse at how a founding father felt about the power of the heart. We got a lot of good feedback so if you want to take a look at last month, just in case you missed it: Head vs. Heart

I particularly like the parts about people attaching meanings to their actions, values and mental assumptions. In our work we think about how institutions include or don't include their people in things like decisions, communications and the intricate details of everyday aspects of business. It is not a mystery that people who have a role in decision making have increased levels of ownership in the outcomes of the business. It is also not mysterious that the more educating we do, the better the decision get. You cannot separate education from decision making and both become important parts of any cultural process. If the organization is willing to "up" the knowledge base, they can get back quality and ownership. This is a bigger risk for some organizations than you might think.

Without filling your head with too much of the intricate details, it is also critical that the organization declare the behavior it expects from its people, the experience they want for their customers and a plan to reward people. They also need to decide that they are committed to a lifetime of education for its leaders and an environment focused on continuous improvement and learning.

So here is a little quiz for you to take to test your organizations culture. Please feel free to print it off, complete it, and have some fun.

Organizational Cultural Quiz

1. Communications and Transparency - Does your company have a method to communicate the most important information and collect feedback from people face to face at least once a month in methods other than informational meetings conducted by management? (i.e., Is your rumor mill (everyone has one) filled with the latest gossip or is it full of positive remarks and good plans and ideas?)

Circle one

Seldom             A little          Occasionally            Usually         Always


2. Change...the magical elixir - Is your company able to adapt to a competitor or a serious change quickly by pulling together around a central idea or goal? (i.e., Can you count on people to pay attention to what is going on in the market place and pushing you to be better each day?)

Circle one

Seldom           A little          Occasionally            Usually         Always


3. Selfless leadership - Does your senior staff and their managers lead by placing a greater value on their contributions to the other parts of the organization before taking care of their needs? (i.e., Are your leaders humble and more interested in the growth of others and finding the potential in people?)

Circle one

Seldom              A little          Occasionally            Usually         Always


4. Surprise, oh yes, glorious surprise - Do your people constantly surprise you with the things they do that add value to the workplace and their community? (i.e., Do they organize "kindness" events for others, without regard for anything except "doing the right thing?")

Circle one

Seldom              A little          Occasionally            Usually         Always


5. Ideas - Is your organization a place where the best ideas win every time? (i.e., Do you collect, expect and even demand that your people “not” check their brain at the door and constantly look for, suggest and implement the best new ideas?)

Circle one

Seldom              A little          Occasionally            Usually         Always


6. Yes or no – Do you hear yes or no most often? (i.e., Is the environment full of hope or despair? Do people have bounce in their step or do things move like a "heard of turtles?")

Circle one

Seldom              A little          Occasionally            Usually         Always


7. Leads or manages - "Managers are people who do things right; leaders are people who do the right thing.    Bennis, Warren Do your leaders hold their leaders to a higher calling? (i.e., Do the people closest to the customer hold their leaders to that same higher calling and does each of your people see themselves as leaders?)

Circle one

Seldom              A little          Occasionally            Usually         Always


8. 60 minute blues - Do people watch 60 minutes on Sunday evening and start to dread the end of the weekend because they have to go back to "you know where" in the morning?

Circle one

Seldom              A little          Occasionally            Usually        Always


9. A penny saved - Do people routinely discuss ways to be more efficient, save money and utilize all resources to their fullest potential?

Circle one

Seldom              A little         Occasionally            Usually         Always


10. Courage - Are your people worried about things that distract them from their good work like retribution, being labeled, held back or marginalized?

Circle one

Seldom              A little          Occasionally            Usually         Always


The ten areas above will give you a glimpse of what is possible and what we have witnessed with dedicated, caring and ‘people focused’ organizations.  If your answers surprise you, or you give this to others to complete and their answers surprise you, remember that you can have it all.

Hope you are enjoying August and I will be back in September.

Warmest regards,

5 (1)


Ralph Twombly
Priority Learning

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.



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