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January 29, 2017

How to nurture a thriving Organizational Culture

Forming an Organizational Culture for an inter-culturally complex world, Part 2 of 2
How to nurture a thriving Organizational Culture

A thriving Organizational Culture must be cultivated. Like a gardener who ties a seedling to a pole, you can encourage the growth of your OC in the right direction.

Name specific behaviors for your current and future workforce to aspire to

Once you reach the point of developing an ICI process that allows your teams to discover what behaviors they want to pursue together, you can start nurturing that culture in your teams and organization. You can start to hire for it. Moreover, you can include those behaviors in Key Performance Indicators – at the team level, at the leadership level, and at the departmental level.

Specific behaviors are something that can be observed and noted by leaders; and specific behaviors are something that can be practiced by your personnel. You can even start to create an awards structure whereby, in creative ways, you celebrate people who innovate and people who bring the new OC alive. This nurturing should become an ongoing process that should never really end.

But is the list of desired behaviors to be set in stone? No, the list will evolve. Different factors will require cultural agility and adaptability: market shifts, shifts in your workforce, or maybe shifts in the product and service offerings of the organization. As a result, an organization and its culture needs continual fine-tuning. Leaders should regularly ask, "Are these behaviors that we are trying to pursue together still the best behaviors, given the market, given our products, given the environment(s) in which we are trying to operate?"

Embrace the holistic nature of a thriving Organisational Culture

In the Industrial Revolution, it seemed like everything was solvable by a “scientific” approach – that no matter what the issue was, just focusing on it and applying a little ingenuity could fix that one little problem. But in today’s global and inter-culturally complex world, you can't “slice it and dice it”. There is an inter-connected, “organic nature” to OC in today's world.

A thriving Organisational Culture is more than a sum of its parts; and much more than just a list of values. Just as an international organization (inter-cultural by definition) is a web of interconnected teams; and different departments are not supposed to operate in silos (although that still happens). This makes OC complex.

Also, a company is typically interconnected with society, with suppliers, with customers, with governments, with multiple municipal bodies, etc. – all of which are starting to play a part in the process of moulding organizational culture. So learning to think about your organization in a holistic manner is incredibly important.

Embed these four considerations in your nurturing process

There are four (4) considerations that, time and time again, we've found to be crucial to any dialog about Organizational Culture and its successful development in inter-cultural environments. If you want to create rally points of conversation, then you must wrestle through these crucial themes:


1) Merit-based trust

How do we build a "trust bank account" between each other? What behaviors ”deposit" into the bank account, and what behaviors "deplete" the bank account? What behaviors do I need to display, and what behaviors should I avoid?

Trust-building, trust-breaking, trust-enabling, trust-disabling — all these can be done in such a variety of ways throughout the many cultures of the world, that it is absolutely essential to have a very practical conversation about the explicit behaviors that the team wants to pursue and those it wants to avoid.


2) Overcoming communication barriers

Barriers occur in both the process of communication and in the actual content. Process includes which systems you're going to use, social media channels, and procedures around the sending of email, the recording of meetings, the posting of memos, and who knows what else. Content is what you are actually going to say.

Together, what you're going to say, through which channel, and how, are all aspects of overcoming communication barriers; and they all need to be discussed. Again, drilling down into these issues should result in an agreed list of explicit behaviors, so that it is clear to everybody what to say or do and what not to say or do.


3) Purpose

When we talk about "Purpose," it has to do with setting goals, pursuing those goals, and being clear about who's going to do what in order to contribute to those goals. You should also identify and create measurements or metrics so that you can “take the pulse” of your team, to make sure that everybody is still aligned.

Or, perhaps your team’s goal needs to be adjusted — a frank discussion about Purpose will help make sure you do that early, and proactively, rather than reactively.

Then, as you start reaching your goals, how would you celebrate? The way we celebrate achievements in IC environments is rarely discussed; and that is where a lot of disappointment and misaligned expectations come from. The flip side of that is also true — that if I don't reach my goal, or if I don't contribute the way I had committed — then what do we do? If you fail to discuss these common eventualities, it typically leads to festering situations that might explode and become almost impossible to handle.

Thus, under the topic of Purpose, we look at goal-setting, we look at delegating, clarity on my contribution, team alignment, checking team pulse, making sure you celebrate appropriately, and making sure you correct poor performance appropriately.


4) Relationships

How do you want to build relationships, to what extent, and how strong do you want them to be? This fourth pillar of creating a strong IC environment is all to do with the strength of interpersonal relationships. What are you going to do to build interpersonal relationships among those in your teams? Conduct weekly team meetings? Or, perhaps meet for five minutes every day?

Will you have "away days" with your team? Do you celebrate birthdays? Do you celebrate religious festivals together, or the national holidays of each other's countries? Do you bring cakes to the office? If your team together achieves a milestone on a project, how are you going to celebrate it as a group?

Do you do off-site activities together outside work? For example, do colleagues go for a coffee or a meal together? Do you do sport together, (some teams go as far as to do mini-holidays together). Whatever your team ends up doing or not doing, it is very important to align those expectations and to make them clear to one another from the beginning.


These four themes are beautiful touchstones for very practical conversations about Organizational Culture. You can find these four pillars fleshed out in further detail in a number of articles on our site. When you add these pillars to the aspirational values of your organization, you begin to build a structure or framework for designing a powerful behavioral charter.


Quickly becoming the global preferred choice for Inter-Cultural Intelligence development, KnowledgeWorkx promotes mutual understanding of other cultures and perspectives in the workplace, and helps teams to develop the intercultural capacity necessary to thrive in a globalized world.

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Last modified on Monday, 30 January 2017 07:15

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