Who "Owns" The Culture?

Is the organisation in question currently "managing its culture"?

The simple answer to that lies in the degree to which people from across the organisation can answer five central questions:

  1. Where is the organisation heading (critical, strategic priorities)?
  2. Why do we do what we do (compelling purpose)?
  3. What are the organisation's values and can you give an example of a recent decision that was shaped by those values?
  4. What makes the organisation special (unique capability)?
  5. How does the organisation make a difference in society (giving back, the environment, building bridges to the local community)?

The five questions posed are just as meaningful to a small consulting firm as they are to a multinational. Who to ask? Clearly you want the top team to be in agreement. The acid test, however, is how middle managers respond. If they are not all on the same page, culture is, at best, an afterthought.

Who "feeds" the bulk of the workforce? The answer: middle management. Which group is the most important to the organisation when it comes to actually delivering the needed culture? The answer: middle management.

The dilemma here is that engagement scores from both sides of the Atlantic show middle management as the group that is least engaged. It's a group that, taken overall, is disappointed, disengaged, disheartened and discouraged. And when it comes to culture, if you don't get middle managers on board then no one is on board.

Why have middle managers become disconnected? Top leaders have forgotten the basic law of gravity: effluent flows downhill. And after the best part of a generation of downsizing, rightsizing and upside-down–sizing - where the "Middle Kingdom" is constantly asked to do more with less - the typical supervisor is standing knee deep in it.

There is a simple message here. "Invest your next dollar, euro, pound, whatever, in the training, education and coaching of the one group that 'owns' the culture."

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".


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