Culture Is Everyone’s Responsibility

By Mostafa Sayyadi and Michael J. Provitera

Culture is a vital factor of an organization’s success and yet not so easy to develop, sustain, and grow. Culture acts as a compass and a lighthouse that brings organizations to the shore of prosperity and success. Management scholars have identified three dimensions for organizational culture that stand out as we recover from the pandemic. One is the dimension of trust, which is expressed by mutual trust and respect for the common good. The second is the dimension of learning that focuses on exploration and innovation. The third, is collaboration, which is an example of actively supporting employees. These three dimensions simplify the complexity of an organization’s culture and shape it. In this article, we intend to introduce a new approach using these three dimensions to better understand and shape culture more effectively. This new approach involves all members of the organization and builds greater results for organizations in the post-COVID-19 era. Using these three cultural dimensions has a surprising impact on the success of companies.  

Introduction 

Culture formulates boundaries that shape behavior and is the platform for acceptance and rejection of any behavior by the workforce. 1, 2, 3, 4 When culture is aligned it acts as a dynamic glue to keep the company focused and future oriented. 5, 6, 7 The COVID-19 crisis and the long-term disconnection of managers and employees was a shock for many managers. 8, 9, 10 Organizations need a new approach that involves all members of the organization. A new development of a cohesive organizational culture that defines culture as a collective responsibility. 

Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is quote from legendary management consultant and writer Peter Drucker.

The New Approach  

All members of the organization are responsible for the continuous development of culture. 11, 12, 13 Thus, official and unofficial leadership roles are necessary in the development of a new culture. Employees, as informal cultivators of the culture, share their attitudes and views in their continuous support of a dynamic culture. 14, 15 The human resource management department is responsible for monitoring this process so that there is maximum coordination between the views of employees and the definition of culture by senior managers. This human resource process offers training and development and cultural activities throughout the year.  Music, entertainment, camaraderie, and fellowship.

Regardless of the size, industry, and type of activities in an organization, culture can be defined and developed using three dimensions. The dimension of trust is defined as mutual trust and respect for the common good. Employees are united by trust and have mutual faith in employee behaviors, intentions, and abilities. The collaboration dimension is based on actively supporting the employees and providing them with the necessary resources to thrive. This dimension also leads to the growth of the willingness of employees and managers to accept responsibility for failure. The learning dimension, which is associated with the growth in the motivation to learn and explore creates better opportunities. Learning becomes a platform for the development of new innovations. Thus, using trust, collaboration, and learning can enhance organizational culture.  Jim Clawson, a prominent professor of organizational behavior, argues that the scores must be very high for leaders in trust, collaboration, and learning. Somewhat above 90 percent.

A successful example of using these dimensions can be seen in the organization named Tesla, which reached an extraordinary level of a learning culture in a short time and established relationships based on trust, developing collaboration, and providing required training. Offering employees empty stock ownership with very little value five years ago and later helping them reap stock surges. Elon Musk noted: “I’m interested in things that change the world or that affect the future and wondrous new technology where you see it and you’re like ‘Wow, how did that even happen?’” 

Building Culture Post Pandemic 

Strategy and objectives along with goals of the organization need to be disseminated throughout the organization. 16, 17 Transparency is key here so that the frontline employees can add value instantaneously for customers. Senior leadership continuously hold meetings with middle managers and the human resources department to create maximum alignment and coordination of cultural norms. Once a pilot is aligned, the plan is rolled out to all employees. A successful example of the comprehensive participation of all members of the board of directors in defining culture can be seen in Honda, Toyota, Samsung, and Apple, where the board of directors of these companies are actively coordinated and aligned with others, including middle managers and the human resource department.  

It is important that executives do not underestimate the vital role of middle managers. These managers act as communication channels between employees and operational levels with the higher echelons of the organization, and this liaison role gives them a deeper view of the experience of employees and lower-level managers regarding the organizational culture. 18, 19 Thus, disseminating information up and down the organizational chart is the sole responsibility of middle management.  

One of the important indicators of the growth of collaboration, unfortunately, is to accept of responsibility for failure among employees and managers. CEOs must have a tolerance for mistakes if they want people to innovate and create. This provides a more intimate atmosphere, expanding the opportunity for the development and progress. 

When we were doing management consulting for the Sydney branch of Honda, we realized that the CEO played an important role by creating a direct communication channel with the employees through a suggestion box on which it was written “Here, no one blames me for bad news,” This suggestion box influenced the development of its organizational culture. Also, in an American organization, Assurant Solutions in Miami, Florida, the CEO, Kirk Landon, had a suggestion box in every department. Any suggestion mattered and he wanted to see any suggestion that was turned down by the managers. 

A few years ago, we were doing management consulting for Travelex in Melbourne, Australia. Our preliminary findings showed that this company, despite its great financial success, still suffers from a serious weakness in the design and development of its organizational culture. For example, the lack of a flourishing organizational culture had caused top managers to refuse to accept responsibility for their failure. The improvement of this organization required that they design and development of a strong organizational culture. This new strong culture would serve the employees to help them meet the organization’s goals. We employed several lecturers from the local university to provide practical executive training to the board of directors and the managers of the human resource department. Training lasted about five weeks, and in this short time, we rejuvenated the organizational culture with a new mindset for productivity, innovation, and creativity. 

We used the three dimensions, mentioned above, trust, collaboration, and learning, to  develop and cultivate culture. Teamwork and innovation began to flourish, and one Human Resource manager noted that  “now this company is a much better place to continue our work and not only serve the customer, but each other.” 

In Conclusion 

The pandemic is over, and people are flocking back to work in droves. Changing the approach towards in-house versus remote work is an organizational culture essential. The result of this change in the business environment and the new requirements of the external business environment adhere to a new knowledge driven culture. One that could be both remote, when necessary, and hosted at the office when mandated. Thus, culture has changed to a factor that requires the collective participation and responsibility of all members of the organization. The biggest problem faced by managers is buy-in and the lack of it. The only way to create buy-in is to develop the three-dimensional culture of trust, collaboration, and learning. This continuous improvement will help workers adapt to change and create passion. Today, this is the only way to achieve a thriving culture that ensures the long-term survival of organizations  in today’s hypercompetitive work environment. 

About the Authors

Mostafa SayydiMostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders.

Michael J ProviteraMichael J. Provitera is a senior faculty professor of Management and Leadership, in the Andreas School of Business at Barry University, Miami, Florida, USA . He is an author of Level Up Leadership: Engaging Leaders for Success, published by Business Expert Press.

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