Firstly what is corporate culture? Simply stated it is the character of the company. The culture of an organisation refers to aspects that relate to beliefs and behavior of the company’s management/ workforce, whilst they interact, among themselves and with the market place. An organisation may decide to coin its own core values. These are then expressly stated, printed, published and broadcasted to the outside world. However, culture is often not expressly stated, it is by implication, through which it gets visibility for the company’s counterparties and outside world.
Since it develops organically over long periods of time, it essentially gets to be collective and cumulative representation of the various behavioral traits of the people working in the organisation. Shared values, beliefs, attitudes, bench mark of performance and character standards are some aspects that go towards defining the corporate culture of an organisation. These then over period of time get to be the underlying basis or foundation upon which the organisation’s strategy, goal, and aspiration are ultimately built. Teambuilding relates to the amalgam of various activities that are used to enhance social bonds between the various segments of the work force. When an organisation decides to put together several activities and events for achieving motivation and cooperative attitude within its employees, it is the process of enabling a group of people to work together, that ensures incorporation of team building, as a major tool for the Board/management.
This will eventually lead to having in place a cohesive and well oiled team that enjoys within itself, the highest standard of interpersonal relationship and skills. Enforcing a culture, upon people . . . is that possible? As an example the board conveys its desire to the management that they wish to see in their organisation, an ‘X’ type of culture; can this be achieved? A diktat cannot create organisation’s culture. It has to flourish from within the core values of the institution; indeed the board can decide on the core values.
The organisation policies, rituals, quality of lingua franca, systems, processes and procedures, etc, go towards the determination of corporate culture. Workers have to be assured on a sustained basis that the leadership of the organisation is geared, motivated and committed to the development of an environment, where inter-dependence, is seen as a major virtue. It must be pronounced, that the management serves the cause of this virtue to keep the hierarchy levels well oiled, and is essentially core to the maintenance of the organisational standard. Culture must enshrine the development of the spirit of the organisation. It must reflect not in words, but in action, the usually high sounding values, that each institution proclaims for itself.
Culture development must lay emphasis on teambuilding, without compromising on individual’s value. It is equally important that while making an enabling environment for all constituents to be able to make a meaningful pitch towards creation of a unified thought on the organisation’s strategy, the necessary dominance of individual view must not be lost. Teamwork is not to suggest decimation of the individual, with his/her own skills, talents and peculiarities. Each colleague brings his own unique strengths to the table and it is the job of the leader to mix the diverse talents into a single pool of efficiency, creativity, productivity, and visibility for the entity. And in turn, equally significantly, it must not be forgotten, while evolution of team-based culture is taking place, that leadership is not about “solo performances”. It is all about the ability to conduct and harmonise the diverse notes into one great symphony.
No, leader succeeds, without a good team. And, no team is considered good, if its leader is not an excelling individual. Leadership is most critical in the making of a culture. It is the culture that will convey to the market place, whether the leadership of the institution is good, bad or indifferent. To create a climate of harnessed workforce, it is inevitable for the leader to demand in exactitude of what he wants the team(s) to deliver, in just as much the team members must know what the leader wants. A constant exchange, through any medium, will help establish the commonality of purpose. This leads to a culture that promotes collective performance, without disturbing the role and contributions of the exceptional human talent. In several organisations, teambuilding initiatives are constricted by lack of adequate delegation. The failure to do so results in team members being in a state of fear of “if what I do goes wrong, I may face the axe!”. Fear is the single bitterest enemy of creativity and new initiatives. Those organisations that give space for performance, backed by well defined criteria of responsibility that goes with authority are most likely to succeed in the market place. Leaders who ignore the significance of culture usually end up with inconsistent practices and a lot of double-speak by the senior management. Since no standards of culture are to be followed, thing that gains immense popularity is expedient duplicity.
This leads to a very hazy view of what the goals and objectives of the organisation are! The fluctuating behavior of leadership is the number-one cause for the disarray you may witness within the work force. On a worst note it could very well translate into unethical business practices. Culture is leader’s responsibility. This he cannot delegate. He has to personally navigate the values through the various divisions/ business segments, to ensure the chosen values pervade through the entire hierarchy. Admittedly, contributing to the building of an enabling culture for teamwork is not easy, because the actions initiated towards its creation will cut across different areas of the organisation, including aspects relating to regions, departments, divisions, age, gender, knowledge-base, etc. The leader has to bind these towards the common objectives and once such thought takes anchor, sailing is easy. A general spirit of corporation will start to hang over the work place, with each individual wishing to contribute towards the success of other colleagues. The joy of achievement by one member is the joy of the team. This is what I personally like to call, “cutthroat co-operation”. When you are part of a team, remaining silent is not an option, in fact, if anything, it is a pure case of intellectual criminality. Participation in dialogue has to be a core value that must be shown respect by all coworkers. Culture is critical is to an organisation’s growth to success. It is so because it is that single binding and unifying force of the entity’s human resources. At the end of the day, an institution is an amalgamation of individual behavior, values, environment, and above all the distinctive and individual personality of each person.
Organisations must pride upon the sense of beauty their culture represents. It is not a consequence of a single act, word or deed. It is the product of a wholesome variety, which meshes and comes out as a harmonious response. Culture is about environment and not about mere any history or heritage.
The writer is a senior banker and a freelance columnis