Is the culture of an organisation magic or just hard work?

There are a myriad of research papers, books and theses about the culture of an organisation. Put simply, I think the culture of an organisation is about “how we do things around here”; not necessarily linked to the published values and mission statement of an organisation, but how it actually feels to be in there and interacting with the teams.  As a trainer and coach, I am privileged to get to work in many organisations in all different types of industries and of all sizes and, believe me, it doesn’t take long to get the ‘feel’ of the culture.  Sometimes you really get the feeling that everyone is working together for the common goal, think of their customers, that people appreciate the investment of the coaching or training and are happy to be working for that employer.  Other times less so; people are not really interested in the business, what it is trying to achieve and the training or coaching is all a bit of a bother (or maybe just an escape from the day job and they don’t think about how it can be applied afterwards).  I am always fascinated as to how the different approaches have grown into the culture of the business.

I don’t know if any of you saw the programme on Remarkable Places to Eat on BBC2. Different chefs took Fred Siriex to their favourite ‘go-to’ restaurants to try the food, experience how the staff work and generally appreciate the culture of both the region they visited and the restaurant business.  It varied from high-end Michelin starred restaurants to little cafes.  What was clear from each one visited was that the culture of each one had set it’s standards, expected each member of staff to follow them, work together as a team for the good of the business, and have an on-going appreciation of the relationships with their customers, suppliers and their regions. Each totally different in their own ways but the culture was one of the driving forces behind the business.

Culture in business may be seen as one of the key elements in a successful business where people feel able to contribute in a positive way and appreciate and live “the way we do things round here”. It isn’t good enough to talk about it – it has to be lived by each and every one of the employees for anyone visiting to ‘feel’ it.  And it does make a difference.  When I work in an organisation with an energised culture, I can come away feeling inspired, appreciated and thinking about how to help them further in the future.  The opposite is true where the culture is less positive. It doesn’t necessarily come easily and can take time and effort from everyone in the organisation, but when it works it is magic!