Organisational Culture: What is it? And Why Your Business Values Matter 

Your organisational culture can make or break your organisation. There are likely to be elements that are helping and hindering the achievement of your goals and strategic objectives, not to mention your employee’s motivation and engagement. 

In this blog, I will tackle all things organisational culture, what it is and why you might need to reassess yours.

What is organisational culture? 

Organisational culture is one of those seemingly intangible things that is often hard to describe because it can look so different from one business to the next.

LiveScience describes the word ‘culture’ as “the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts”. It’s an umbrella term that can cover a wide range of social behaviours, activities and norms. 

But when we look at culture in the context of a company, it generally refers to the values and beliefs that leaders establish and then communicate and reinforce to their employees. Culture shapes how employees perceive your company, their behaviours, and their understanding of your and others’ expectations.  

Culture is something a client or employee can innately feel in your business. 

So, how does your culture look and feel?

If you need some clarity around whether you have a healthy culture that is working towards your mission and goals, you first need to understand what defines it. 

What defines your culture? 

Not to overwhelm you, but your culture is defined by quite literally everything that happens in your business.

What contributes to organisational culture is pretty exhaustive. Here is a short list:

  • Your leadership and communication style.
  • How you engage and what you share go a long way.
  • What and how you define expectations are and how your team feel while delivering on those expectations. 
  • An obvious contribution to your business culture is your vision, mission and your values
  • The beliefs that are held by each person in the team as well as the organisational beliefs that you encourage. The leader isn’t the only one who dictates the culture — everyone contributes.
  • Artifacts! The inanimate objects like branding, decor, and what’s in the kitchen. 
  • What you reward and recognise in your team. Do you withhold praise? Or do you shower it frequently? 
  • Your business’ ground-rules, which are sometimes unwritten. More on this in a sec! 
  • Acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. What do you encourage and what do you abhor? 
  • How your team members are inducted.
  • Whether (and why) the organisation invests in ongoing training and development.
  • How does team performance get managed?. What do you do when things get off track or you fall behind? 
  • This might come as a surprise, but who buys the coffee in the morning!  
  • What the workplace dress code is. Casual? Smart casual? What people are allowed and encouraged to wear makes a big difference.  

You might be beginning to understand why understanding what drives your culture is so valuable because if you have a culture problem, there are a lot of elements that could be impacting it. 

If your employees aren’t engaged, connected to your mission and motivated, consistent business growth becomes an uphill battle.

How to work out if your culture is helping or hindering your vision

Step 1 

The first thing you can do is ask yourself this: “Is the environment of my business helping to achieve my strategy?” 

If your vision is clear, and the cultural expectations and subsequent actions aligned to your strategy, then the people on your team will be working cohesively toward that vision. If not, then it’s time to start unpacking why. 

Step 2

Next, check-in with yourself. Do you know what’s actually going on in your business? Take a look at points of friction and calibrate that with your vision. You might find yourself dealing with unwritten ground rules

Unwritten ground rules is a term created by a fellow Aussie consultant, Steve Simpson. These unwritten rules can be a powerful force that dictates behaviours in a team or organisation.

An example of an unwritten ground rule could be promoting autonomy and self-drive, but the team only works when you’re constantly pushing them for outcomes. The unwritten ground rule here is that people have to wait for you to give the instruction. 

Step 3 

Another way of determining whether your culture is helping or hindering your vision is by asking your team directly. Although I haven’t seen this done often, it is a hugely influential and illuminating activity.

You can ask your team questions like: 

  • How do you perceive the culture of this business? 
  • Do you think it’s contributing towards the goals of the organisation? 
  • What do you think we can do to improve the culture and reach those goals? 

Touching base with your team is a great way to gauge your culture, especially if you tend to keep your head down doing business as usual. Remember, when you receive feedback, be prepared for positive, and negative responses equally. Most importantly, you have to be prepared to rectify situations that negatively contribute to the culture and address any behaviours that are not helping achieve your goals.

If you don’t feel like you’re in a position to make that happen, or because you’re dealing with too much as a business owner, this seems like just another thing on the plate; I would advise you to hire a third party. 

It’s worth noting that sometimes, team members are too scared to voice their real opinions, fearing negative repercussions. A third party allows anonymity, meaning you’ll receive the answers your team might be too nervous to tell you, and you don’t have to be in a potentially uncomfortable situation. 

In saying that, how open and honest your team feels they can be with you speaks directly to your company culture…

Your organisational culture plays such an important role in achieving your success. If you and your team are not enjoying coming to work, or you’re spinning your wheels and not moving forward, it might be your culture getting in the way.

If any elements of your environment are creating challenges for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch


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