Culture development is a long-term, continuous process that needs to be adapted to the already existing corporate culture. For this reason, we recommend our use case for the application description.
Organizational culture describes the shared values, norms, and attitudes in an organization that determine the decisions and behaviors of employees and managers. Corporate culture is always present and evolving, whether people are aware of it or not. It influences how employees perceive the organization as an employer, how managers interpret their style, and how collaboration occurs within and between departments.
If the company allows it, its culture changes independently and uncontrollably. In this case, the organizational culture does not provide a buffer against internal or external disruptive factors and is often characterized by uncertainty and discontinuity. That creates room for contradictory decisions, subcultures' formation, and an inconsistent leadership style in the organization. Isolation of employees from the company or even oppositional behavior due to loss of trust is a logical consequence. It is essential to know that all the people who form the organization also help to shape its culture. With growing isolation, the centrally controlled organizational culture becomes unbalanced and ultimately does not even penetrate top management's daily work.
However, suppose the organizational culture is actively shaped. In that case, the organization is much more likely to be resilient in the face of stressors from inside and outside and act as a beacon for employees, customers, and business partners. This culture does not have to please everyone, and it should not just consist of empty slogans. It must optimally reflect the organization's character, expectations, and goals to enable identification with the company. Only if the managed organizational culture is present daily does it form sufficient implicit and explicit cultural norms and values.
Organizational culture is challenging to grasp as a construct and is often perceived as a diffuse element. Therefore, many companies do not know how to assess their culture, how to intervene in a guiding way, and what to pay attention to. It can be ignored for a long time if, for example, the company's financial situation remains positive and no significant challenges put pressure on the structure.
A company experiences pressure to change from internal and external factors. Still, external factors have easier access to the management level and are therefore noticed more intensively (e.g., declining sales figures). There is often a lack of focus for internal reasons for change, the proper weighting, and proactive action. If the organization then enters a critical phase (e.g., changed market requirements, financial difficulties, etc.), cultural deficits that suddenly become obstacles cannot be solved with the necessary time and quality. That often means implementing old hierarchical "command and control" mechanisms by the management because there is no other way at this point.
Before it gets to this point, very few companies are even aware of their current cultural status or know the characteristics of their subcultures. Even if the need for a cultural analysis is known, rarely more is done than to put the staff through a one-time survey. Afterward, an institute can provide an excellent diagnosis of the internal culture, but the company is usually just as smart as before. The culture is still hardly actively managed, and no positive changes are made.
Since organizational culture is usually only given a marketing-suitable coat of paint and thus has to live up to generic principles (e.g., "We are courageous"), it first needs a reality check. Where is the culture in relation to the company goals and in view of the company history? Where are there cultural differences or deviations from the ideal? According to this, how much does the organizational culture deviate from the formulated brochure?
Culture development is a long-term, continuous process that must be adapted to the already existing corporate culture. For this reason, we recommend the application of the following process steps:
In the first phase, zweikern works out a basis for the current cultural development together with the client. What are the primary motivations for the cultural change, and how much preliminary work has been done so far? In which areas can hurdles and resistance already be identified? What is the history of the corporate culture within the organization? How does the envisaged change fit with the existing culture? zweikern develops specific survey content based on this knowledge, which can then be applied as an initial cultural analysis. The aim is to generate a cultural analysis whose results can direct indications of what needs to be done. The analysis can only be the basis for the actual cultural development.
In order to check the previous cultural assumptions and to be able to implement the cultural analysis for the first time, a pilot project is implemented with a selected sample. The development fields and conditions uncovered here are processed together with the client's project team, and the first actions are derived. Important here is the already good predictability of the general cultural landscape based on such a sample. The symptoms will differ in detail, but the underlying factors are usually similar across the company. This insight is then used to make the cultural analysis more precise and prepare it for the entire workforce. At the same time, the first comprehensive actions can already be discussed and prepared here to be able to react adequately to the participants' expectations. Due to the manageable size of the pilot group (usually between 2-10% of the staff), focused workshops and discussions can provide essential preliminary work for the entire cultural development.
Also, during the pilot, it usually becomes clear that a rigid cultural expectation does not fit the reality of the workforce. In general, there needs to be a local discussion of the cultural parameters and their scope in daily work (e.g., "Where can we be courageous? How does this show?"). Only then can cultural development be done locally in perspective and freed from top-down control. With the help of local interpretations and discussions, one creates a tangibility of organizational culture that gives a clear framework but does not constrict or even appear paradoxical.
In a subsequent rollout, the specified questionnaire should be set up so that options for action arise for the individual areas. If the burden of cultural development has to be distributed on a few shoulders of a project team, it will already fail in the medium term. A nationwide survey aims to gain organization-wide knowledge but rather to work on change on the ground. The results of the survey are discussed and evaluated at a team level. The resulting interpretation of culture can initiate and improve the feedback and leadership culture on the ground. zweikern supports this process with moderation, workshops, and the joint development of local survey content.
With the wealth of findings from the pilot and the overall survey, zweikern enters into an intensive data and target reflection with the client. Survey contents and actions are adapted again here and optimized for continuous application. Critical here is also thetransfer to the client, as the development of the culture should not be lightly aborted or terminated after a short time. Handing over the competence for culture development to the client is therefore crucial for the success of the change.
zweikern inspires with its open and honest attitude, constructive and progressive ideas and professional expertise.
With zweikern, a healthy organizational culture can be set up so that, despite global monitoring, individual development work can be promoted, and even local deviations can be included in the survey interface. These degrees of freedom are usually necessary, as not every cultural factor is needed equally strongly in every work area (e.g., courage in the "accounting" department). At zweikern, the focus is on the organization's competence to steer its own culture and distribute responsibility to each individual.
Suppose the development of the organizational culture is given a continuous focus and is worked on authentically and actively. In that case, it can be meaningfully integrated into the everyday work of the workforce. This active change dynamic is significantly more fruitful than an often passive and thus obstructive attitude of expectation. At the same time, constant feedback within and between organizational units strengthens the sense of belonging and shared achievement. zweikern establishes regular evaluation surveys that keep the status of development high and at the same time enable resource-saving cultural development with the participation of all people.
Internal barriers or filters that reduce communication between levels are removed through these processes, enabling real communication and change.
Corporate culture is an integral part of all companies and reflects their DNA. It can and should be managed to avoid negative development and to be able to respond effectively to internal and external demands.
The advantages of an actively managed corporate culture are: