Whenever we start working with a new client, there’s talk of getting a culture fit. What this means, usually, is making sure that we use the right acronyms, but there can be more to it than that. Culture can involve how people learn, how they are rewarded and how they are motivated to do their jobs. I’m often amazed at just how distinctive and different the cultures in different organisations are: i mean, it’s all just the same type of people who work there surely?
I can see how groups of friends develop different personalities for the group, because they are often based around shared experiences or loves: liking the same music, the same football teams, the same games. I suppose it’s the same with organisations. Sharing a common goal leads to the development of shared goals and therefore a distinct identity.
In any event, that organisations have different cultures is a fact our our work in learning and development, and it’s important that we align our work with that culture. There’s nothing wrong with creating differences – indeed, creating disturbance by using different approaches and styles is a great way of generating engagement and motivation, but we can’t just do it randomly.
If we wade in and try to do things differently, without understanding why things are done the way they are, we run the risk of just presenting solutions. There may be a disconnect between what we are saying and what people are hearing. After all, the culture is not imposed on people from above, it’s created and shared by individuals, so we can’t just bypass it on a whim. If enough people create enough momentum within an organisation, the culture will change. This is a challenge faced by many businesses in times of growth, and at times of acquisition, where cultures clash. At those times, people default to their natural tendency to protect and value what they know. It takes time for a new, amalgamated or new, culture to develop, and even within long established organisations, there can be long institutional memory of what came before.
In essence, whenever we are writing or delivering training, we need to appreciate this heritage. We need to speak in the right voice if we want our messages to resonate. It’s ok to break and challenge the culture, but you have to do it from a starting point of understanding what’s there already.