The Power of Corporate Culture

Your company’s culture plays one of the biggest roles in whether you’re able to deliver projects successfully. A company culture that’s adaptive and open to change has greater success than those that do not.

What is “company culture”?

Culture has many definitions including:

  • Appreciation of good literature, music, art, and food
  • Colony of bacteria or other microorganism growing in a nutrient medium in a laboratory Petri dish
  • Full range of learned human behavior patterns.

Company culture can be defined as shared values and practices of the employees. Project managers whose goals align with the company’s culture have the greatest success. Success comes because they work within the constraints of the existing culture (i.e. working within the status quo) to get the project done or they work within a preferred company culture (one that has created room for change allowing for the best potential outcome of success).

How do I know if my project management goals are aligned with my company’s culture?

During the lifecycle of a project have you ever questioned why a particular process is followed a certain way only to be told “it’s the <insert company name here> way”? Or have you ever tried to introduce change that everyone agrees will provide greater success to the project only to be met with resistance and told “We’ve always done it this way. It works for us”?

If these statements sound familiar, there’s a chance your project management goals are not 100% aligned to your company’s culture. Now that’s not to say you can’t drive change to this culture, culture constantly changes, and it’s only a perceived object (exists in our minds only). But if culture were easy to change, we would see major shifts in many different cultures all the time.

Why is company culture hard to change?

People continue to work for organizations where they are comfortable within the existing corporate culture. In other words, they figured out a way to make the corporate culture work for them, and they’re content. These people are naturally resistant to change.

What you can do to change company culture?

  • Start with finding leadership’s willingness to allow change within the existing culture.
  • Understand and accept that a change in company culture means that some people will lose their perceived power and the majority of people might find their existing comfort level displaced.
  • There needs to be acceptance that the current status quo does not work well for the company and that sacrifices are warranted from individuals as well as the organization.
  • Once the majority accepts the change for the good of the organization, the next step is vital to your success – a respectful two-way dialogue to define best options. This dialog should not appear as a parent-child dialog, superior-inferior dialog, or powerful-meek dialog. It should be a two-way dialog where all parties work together to define the best option. It’s at this stage that you will perform a gap analysis of sorts: What’s the company culture now? What’s the desired company culture? What’s needed to get you there? During these dialogues, everyone must keep in mind that there are many individuals sacrificing their existing comfort in the status quo. You’ll find the greatest success if you help them regain their losses and provide a smooth transition into the new company culture.

By creating and nurturing an adaptive company culture (one that allows space for change), project managers are best able to anticipate, adapt, and make changes during the lifecycle of their projects, gaining a greater chance to achieve project success.

Do you currently work in an adaptive company culture? How has this assisted you in your project management goals? Are you able to make changes more easily during the lifecycle of a project?

Have you driven change in your company’s culture? What did you find worked best for bringing the majority to accept the change? Will you share with us the positive impact these changes had on your management of projects?

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