More and more, executives are focusing their energy (as well as their resources) on corporate culture.

While the reasons for their interest are clear – higher employee engagement and motivation, better alignment toward corporate vision and access to increased productivity and effectiveness – the paths to accomplish are much more opaque.

Can’t see it or touch it…

“The problem with corporate culture”, one senior executive told me, “is that it’s not tangible.”

He went on to lament, “I can show you our processes and procedures, let you touch our products, talk to our people.  However, if I want to show you our culture – that proves much more difficult.”

The elusive, sometimes even mysterious nature of culture has vexed well-intended executives for decades.  Almost everyone knows that their corporate culture has a profound and far-reaching impact on their people – on what results people think are possible and not, what opportunities they can see and which they are blind to, and how they behave in and react to a variety of situations and circumstances.

Access to Culture

I have found that there are a few key levers that can give executives access to the elusive phenomenon we call “culture”

  • It can be said nothing of significant value gets accomplished without people talking and interacting with each other. By paying attention to who talks to whom and what kinds of interactions people in an enterprise have about what topics, one can learn much about the dynamics of that enterprise.
  • Organizational Practices: conversations are reinforced through organizational habitual behaviors. Those practices, over time, start to shape the culture….  Do meetings start and end on time?  Where do people go to resolve conflict?  How is risk-taking rewarded or punished?  Identifying the habits of the organization allows executives to then work to retire those that are inconsistent with the desired culture and create new ones that are consistent with it.

Paying attention to these critical factors will start any executive down the path to solving the culture conundrum. What are the interactions and habits in your organization? Do they support the culture you are after?

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