Company Culture 101: How to spot a culture gap in your company
Every executive team understands that company culture is a vital, if often overlooked part of their strategy. Culture is neglected because it is always essential but often not urgent. Why? Executive teams often believe they are communicating their values more clearly than they actually are.
The reasons for this are simple. We tend to overestimate how much we are communicating and the fidelity with which it is received. Executive teams tend to experience this error on a much larger scale because the demands on their communication skills are higher. The bottom line is that leaders often don’t have an accurate picture of what they have actually communicated about company culture and values, because they often don’t think to ask, and if they do ask the answers are biased.
The result is a culture gap between executive teams and underlying departments within a company. Culture gaps lead to increased tension between teams, and lower company performance. Let’s think about why this is the case. Most of us are familiar to some degree with the fundamental attribution error. This error in our thinking is so common that it can be applied to almost any situation. When we observe another person’s behavior we often assume we know why they are behaving the way they are based on our own frame of reference. Often times we do not actually have insight into what is driving an individual’s behavior, and we end up misjudging them.
So imagine a company where the leadership team has communicated inconsistently or not enough. Each individual department will develop its own set of priorities which they assume reflects the broader priorities and values of the organization. When another team takes actions that challenge this view, they will assume that the other team is behaving in a way that undermines the priorities of the company. Relationships are damaged, productivity slows, and decision-making becomes more difficult.
The take-away for leadership teams is clear: culture gaps must be actively managed. The only way to manage company culture effectively is to measure it. At Pomello, we use data to quantify company culture so that it can be easily understood by leadership teams and managers alike. The company analytics highlighted below show how one executive team developed a culture gap around integrity. The were able to diagnose this culture gap and ultimately took actions to resolve this gap over time—leading to higher performance and employee engagement.
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