Framing and co-creating organisational culture

I’ve been exploring pressures on organisational culture over the last week or so, looking at how we align our internal values with those of the community and, in turn, choose our course of action. Rifts open up when our personal values and beliefs are misaligned with those of groups or the wider organisation. Having shared the early stages of this with the community here, i’m focusing on on aspect: how culture is framed and co-created.

Framing and co-creating culture

Culture is framed by the organisation, but co-created and co-owned by individuals

The organisation is not a thing: it’s a group of individuals aligned around common purpose, overlain with a formal structure and informal relationships. In this sense, an ‘organisation‘ can’t ‘own‘ anything, so when i talk about the organisation framing culture, what i mean is that position that is taken by leadership and through processes to define action. It’s the strategic direction that is implemented by managers.

When i say that ‘in the Social Age, culture is framed by the organisation, but co-created and co-owned by the community‘, what i mean is this: in the old days, we would look at culture being defined by the organisation and inhabited by individuals. When you joined the organisation, you conformed to the culture, or left. My view is slightly different: i believe that culture is co-created in the moment, through our actions. It’s the measurable outcome of activity, not a fictionally descriptive mission statement. You can say you have a culture that is tolerant of mistakes, but unless you actually tolerate a mistake, it’s just a fiction. The proof is very much within the pudding.

Let’s consider four aspects of control around culture: framing, co-creation, co-ownership and moderation. Framing is our strategic direction: it’s about leadership and communication. Co-creation is about how this is realised in the community. It’s about being agile and responsive to the reality on the ground whilst remaining true to the strategy. This is where ‘culture‘ is first manifested.

Once we’ve defined it, it’s co-owned: to be successful ‘lived’, there needs to be trust and innovation. Finally, there is always an elements of control and moderation: through regulated and rules (but these may be co-created and co-owned.

This is a simplified picture, but i wanted to expand the notions of ‘framing‘ and ‘co-creation‘.

Social Businesses need to recognise that they can frame culture, but not own it: they can be in the conversation to co-create it, and they can participate in the models of moderation and ownership, but as culture is ultimately about people and behaviours in the moment, it has be be a collaborative process.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Adaptability, Agile, Authority, Community, Conformity, Culture and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Framing and co-creating organisational culture

  1. Pingback: Framing and co-creating organisational culture ...

  2. An interesting take on culture – but what about history? A lot of organisational culture is also organisational history, and myth/belief. You give the example of a culture that tolerates mistakes, I may personally not tolerate mistakes in my team but myself and others might believe that there is a culture of that going on. Or a bullying culture for example – employees might have a sense that there is a bullying culture, even if they have no experience (direct or indirect) of it. The culture exists almost as a result of myth, or past stories. Perhaps that means that the culture hasnt been curated in a very effective way!!!
    Can culture be measured? or is it more complex and amorphous than that? Are there aspects that cant be measured?
    I am not sure I agree with you sense that culture is strategic direction implemented by managers – a lot of work that we do is around how a SMT might try to implement changes in culture that don’t work – or appear to in the first instance. Maybe that is because belief is not aligned to actions….

    • julianstodd says:

      Good thoughts: i hadn’t addressed the ‘history’ part of culture, but i think my assertion that ‘culture is created in the moment’ is deliberately intended to counter the historical perspective (please bear in mind that the blog is my first reflective space, so your comments are evolving my thinking!). Many organisations view culture as monolithic (certainly grounded in history) and hard to change. What i’m edging around is the view that, sure, it has this ‘existing’ construct, but that culture as it’s experienced is largely created in the moment. In your example above, if you are intolerant of mistakes, you would impact the culture towards a space where it’s less tolerent of mistakes.

      Under the CAIR model, what i’m also interested in exploring is how your (fictional!) stance towards intolerance of mistakes may set up internal and external tensions with co-inhabitants of your culture.

      Your questions on whether culture can be measured – i wrote that cautiosly, but i remember my PhD supervisor telling me once that everything can be measured, then driving myself to distraction to try and contradict him. Whilst we can provide a definitive measure of culture, we can of course use engagement surveys and other diagnostic to provide some traction for our conversations.

      Your point about misalignment of belief to actions failing to deliver reformed/changed/evolved culture is very salient. i think we are saying the same thing in different words, but i’d love the chance to talk this through further. your experience around bullying/dispute resolution etc would doubtless inform some great conversations. Do drop me a line if you’d like to do that.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your experience and thoughts, best wishes, Julian

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  6. AndyTheDandy says:

    It’s a very interesting conversation and you both are true, I think. I’ve seen both. Julian’s view is in my point of view referring to start-ups or just quite young companies whilst Rebecca seem’s to have already seen older companies or at least companies that don’t have a startup attitude as maybe an insurrance. Great to have these two views in one article.

    Great blog, Julian. I just discovered it 🙂

    • julianstodd says:

      Thanks Andy, it’s great how feedback here helps to refine and develop my thinking. I really appreciate everyone engaging. Thanks for visiting and sharing, best wishes, Julian

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