Organizational Culture is more than just accepted behaviours or social norms

Culture also acts as a gyroscope for communications. The culture of an organization sets the guidelines for the accepted tone in which people speak, what may be appropriate for hand gestures and body language. The meaning of phrases and even differences in the meaning of particular words can change, depending on the context and culture of the environment you’re in.

Let me give you an example. In the early 2000’s I use to work for the BBC. I managed the finances of UKTV Cable television channels, a joint venture between BBC Broadcast and Flextech Television.

One day I spilt my coffee on my trousers in the coffee room. As I walked back into our small compact office at BBC Television Centre in Wood lane, I announced to the room that “I have just stained my pants!” I was greeted with horrified silence. I didn’t realise that “pants” which is commonly used in Australia as trousers, was more commonly used as underwear in England. I sheepishly clarified what I meant once I realised the interpretation of what was said.

On a more serious note, I can imagine how Qantas could potentially suffer in the airline ratings because of misunderstandings in Australian culture and accepted behaviour.  Australians can be quite direct and may be perceived as abrupt by Europeans, Asians and Americans by the way we use language. Quick two word answers to requests like “no worries” can be misinterpreted as lackadaisical, but Australians in professional service roles are often far from it.

Importance of Organizational Culture

How important is culture in your organisation? Even if you are a 2 person team, your organisation still has culture.  What do you do to make sure everyone understands your organisational culture? Do you think through how to ingrain a positive culture?

Organizational Culture is the 5th pillar in the Premiership Business Framework set out in my book Premiership Business.