Articles 2 min read

Organisations don’t have a culture, they are their cultures by Karen Walker

We know countries, places, societies, communities, and groups of people with shared religious or other beliefs, all have their own characteristics, spoken and unspoken rules. A way of life, a way of being, a way of relating with others, a way of making sense of the world, that is their culture and subcultures.

Culture is the vast difference between visiting a foreign country, and living there.

Yet, in the communities, groups and the myriad of human relationships and connections that reside in organisations, we think of culture as a resource to be managed. There are departments named People and Culture, there are programs, and strategies to change people and culture.

Implementing strategies and programs to control and change who people are at work, is as counter-intuitive and oppressive as strategies and programs to dictate a certain organisational culture.

Everything – leadership, decisions, actions, strategies, ways of working, conflict, harmony, planned versus achieved change – in an organisation, are all products one way or another, of the organisation’s culture.

So how do cultures evolve, if they’re so omnipotent?

Families made us human

The powerful combination of social and emotional intelligence our ancestors developed to form cohesive, and cooperative family and community groups, created their best possible quality of life and survival.

Family culture are those traditions, quirks, stories and legends, rituals, and taboos (don’t mention xyz to Auntie Joan whatever you do!) that we consciously and subconsciously, respond to.

We all know culture has changed and evolved in our families, we’ve been living it as long as we can remember.

Starting with an early awareness of what’s right and what’s wrong as a child, what’s accepted and what’s not. As values, beliefs, priorities, relationships and roles in the family evolves, so does its culture, as a result of a multitude of things, including:

  • its members ageing and responding to their life experiences,
  • marriages and divorces,
  • births and deaths,
  • good fortune and crises, and
  • how the impacts of geographic, political, economic and social forces, affect family dynamics.
It’s social and emotional

We don’t have a People and Culture department to help us navigate our family culture and subcultures.

We do have, of a lifetime, lived experience of how culture evolves, and what happens that can make or break, the fabric of families, and important relationships in our lives.

When we’re working in an organisation, we’re living in its cultures.

Are we paying the same attention to the social and emotional human experiences we are creating, or accepting, from others? As we would in our family and other important relationships?

Karen Walker is an Advisor, Expert and Operative in Strategy Execution, the series of decisions and actions undertaken to turn strategic visions of organisations into reality. An evolving journey of understanding possibilities and using situational awareness to adapt tactics and goals to realise maximum value.

A specialist in the casino and gaming industry, with extensive experience in the implementation of new and innovative practices and the establishment of greenfield operations, Karen’s career spans senior operational management and leadership, program director, project and change management, and business transformation lead roles, across a number of sectors.

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