Three Simple Steps to Improve Your Organizational Culture

5 Minute Read…

Your organizational culture may be killing your people.

It may be killing you, too.

Before we work on it, we should probably define it.

What is culture?

Let me begin by asking a question. If someone said to you, “What do you do around here?” How would you answer? I assume you would respond in one of two ways: job description or organizational mission. Both are partially correct answers. In an organization, our collective mission plus our unique job description defines our “what.” But that’s not our culture. That’s our mission and our job.

Culture is not what  we do but how  we do it.

Every company, business, church, and organization has a unique culture that affects every aspect of organizational life.

To say it another way, culture is what’s common to us that may be uncommon to others.

Understanding culture is critical for organizational success. Defining culture is crucial for staff success.

And therein lies our most significant organizational culture gap. Every organization has a culture. Defining your culture positions people for success. A lack of cultural definition? Well, that creates significant problems.

Here are three steps to help your culture (and your staff):

1. Define what is common to you.

Virtually every person working within your organization came from another organization, with another culture. Even if undefined, that other workplace had a culture. Your staff learned (probably the hard way) how to work within that culture. While it was never defined, it formed elements of definition over time through trial and error. Now, that staff member is working with you, but with a borrowed culture brought with them from their previous employer.

What’s common for you is not common to their previous organization, but they’re unaware. Why? Because your culture is equally undefined. Defining what’s common for your organization that’s uncommon in others positions people for greater success. So define it! If you’re not sure how, subscribe to my articles. I’ll write more about this soon.

Which brings us to the next cultural step…

2. Write down the unwritten rules

Too many organizations allow culture to exist as unwritten rules. While true, these unwritten rules are still rules. Following rules bring rewards. Ignoring or breaking the rules, however, carry consequences.

How unfair is that for a staff member? A person breaking an unwritten cultural rule receives punishment, but they never had a chance. Unwritten culture rules are akin to landmines. You can’t see them until you step on them, and then it’s too late. The landmine explodes! The good news is you learned an important lesson. An element of the culture is now known, allowing you to avoid the landmine in the future. The bad news? You’re permanently missing a leg.

Defining your organizational culture is the first step. Writing it down comes next. We should never allow unwritten rules to create real consequences for staff.

3. Culture isn’t right or wrong, but it is right for some and wrong for others

I see this all the time. Staff complain about the “culture” of the organization. You hear people say things like, “We just have a bad culture.”

Culture by nature isn’t “good” or “bad.” Culture isn’t “right” or “wrong.” Culture is. Culture exists.

So why do we at times feel culture is good, bad, right, or wrong? It’s simple. Because that culture is good, bad, right, or wrong for us. Some organizational cultures fit our personalities, abilities, passions, and work-style, and some don’t. Some cultures complement how we like to work, and others compete. This means that culture alone isn’t right or wrong, but specific cultures might be right or wrong for you.

A bad culture fit doesn’t mean the culture is wrong or the person is terrible. I’ve seen dozens of people struggle in one organization only to thrive in the next. These individuals weren’t bad employees who became good. Everywhere they went, there they were! They were bad fits for one place and great fits for another.

Defining and documenting your culture allows your staff to comprehend success holistically. Equally, it helps people determine their cultural fit.

I imagine your staff has job descriptions (if not, get it together!). What they probably don’t have is a cultural description. A job description defines what we do, but a cultural description describes how we do it. Both are necessary for a staff member to understand success within your organization.

How can you write down your unwritten rules?

Good question. Follow along with these articles to stay up-to-date. I’ll write more about this soon. But, if you’re willing, I’d love to talk about this with you in more detail. Reach out, and let’s see if working together works for us.

How can I help?

Changing for the better is why I created Transformation Solutions – and that includes culture change. At Transformation Solutions, we help churches discern what needs to change and coach pastors through the challenge of change. I’d love to support you and your church through the process of evaluation and execution.

Go right now to and sign up for a free, 30-minute conversation to decide if working together works for you.

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