Organisational culture – why bother?

Organisations to date are still grappling with the complexities of defining a common organisational purpose. This becomes even more complicated during a business acquisition or merger, especially when there are major differences in organisational values and behaviours. This is also evident when large multi-national companies enter less mature markets and quickly discover that local
organisations have their own unique way of doing business in that particular business environment. Sometimes what is deemed ‘unacceptable’ in some markets is quite ‘acceptable’ somewhere else. This is a constant challenge facing all types of organisations globally. Culture will ultimately define a company’s belief system and expectations for the future, and will invariably influence success or failure in a highly competitive global marketplace.
As a result of greater focus on ‘cultural fit’ and all things related, Private Equity firms are now investing considerable time and resources to better understand a target company’s organisational dynamics before concluding any deal. This could be a major factor in realising value from the deal down the line. A company that has a defined philosophy for doing business will more likely have a
better strategic vision, which in turn makes it more appealing to investors, internal and external talent pools and customers alike. An organisation’s culture could either make it or break it over the long term. Thus, in attempting to create a high performance organisation, it becomes vital for senior leadership to define the culture required for success, or in the case of M&A’s, creating a vision for the future that will aim to bring the best of both organisational cultures together to deliver maximum value for all stakeholders. It is at this point that a company’s senior leadership team have an opportunity to etch themselves in corporate history and create the environment for making the company highly successful. Senior executives need to grasp this opportunity by ensuring they live
the values of the organisation and become effective role models for the rest of the organisation to follow. Doing this effectively at the top of the hierarchy instils confidence and trust in the layers below and has a mesmerising effect on motivating the wider workforce.
It is never an easy task to create or change cultural identity however with the added pressure of globalisation, the race for good talent and ever changing technological advancement, global organisations cannot afford not to invest in creating distinct cultural identities. Companies around the world are investing heavily on optimising business performance. Process and technology change alone will not make a difference unless there has been a carefully thought out people change strategy which is aligned to the strategic vision of the organisation. Many transformation efforts fail due to poor people change planning. On some large programmes it is often evident that ‘lip-service’ is paid to the impact of change on people and in many cases prevents the successful adoption of new ways of working. People need to be engaged early, to instil the values of trust and integrity. Many organisations leave it too late and lose immense credibility internally as well as externally as information starts to leak everywhere. A company serious about reputation and brand attractiveness will have as part of its organisational DNA, clear values around trust, transparency and commitment to treating people with due care and not just paying ‘lip-service’ to employee consultation. In conclusion, all aspects of transformational change require clear linkage to the corporate strategy of the organisation. This is often neglected and in many cases leads to the failure of the change
initiative, wasting valuable time, resources and energy. It is therefore vital for companies to establish the right type of culture, be it for the purposes of expanding into new emerging markets, M&A’s or a brand new start up looking to establish a foothold in the open market. A well-defined organisational culture provides the starting point for all stakeholders to feel part of something unique. This only encourages greater differentiation between competing organisations and its influence over products, services, quality and the ability to attract specific talent pools.

Vellendra Sannasy is an Organisational Change Professional with extensive experience in leading strategic and operational business change. Vellendra has worked with global organisations in the UK, US, Asia and South Africa, with a great appreciation for cultural
diversity and different ways of working. He is also the Founder of StratChange Consulting, which is a niche consultancy, providing strategic and operational guidance to C Suite Executives and Senior Management teams undergoing complex organisational change.

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