How Culture Shines a Light on Organizational Misalignment


Recently I have shared several articles to help you determine if your Organization is Designed to Change and if it is Embracing or Rejecting Change. This article continues our journey to envision a new way to purposefully design and align your organization to handle the ever-changing market and economy. This week we are going to look at how Culture provides a baseline for you to purposefully design your organization in the future to embrace Change.

Let’s start by reviewing the following statement:

€"The culture of my organization embraces change by encouraging flexibility, adaptability, innovation, iteration, or improvement (for example if an employee makes a suggestion it is considered and many times implemented more often than not)"

If you feel like your culture is not embracing change let’s further examine possible causes. Cultural problems are typically described as behavioral norms that influence how people interact inside the organization and reflect sentiments about how they feel.  It is difficult to measure Culture with traditional metrics and spreadsheets. Here are some ideas for identifying Cultural problems:

  1. Examine your own mindset about the organization. Are your personal values aligned with the values of the organization? Does your management help you understand the values in relation to expected behavioral norms? Are these types of conversations considered normal in your organization?
  2. Observe the engagement between the people in your organization to reflect on the cultural design. How do employees deal with each other when things are not working well inside the organization? How do you celebrate and reward in the organization? Why are people joining or leaving the organization?
  3. Review value statements, job descriptions, annual performance methods, and any other employee expectation setting process – are the expectations aligned with the organization’s stated values? Are employees expected to act in ways that promote the values? Is management influencing behavioral norms in line with the values? What does it really take to get promoted?

If you are having trouble answering the questions or feel like the answers reflect a problem - your organization needs to consider purposeful design. Culture problems are not going away and employees will continue to perform at average or sub-optimal levels if ignored. Cultural issues and problems are an indicator that the baseline design of your organization is out of alignment.

Why is Culture important to organizational alignment? In my article on Embracing or Rejecting Change we reflected on the number of observations that correlate directly to action or lack of action by people in an organization. The engagement of people or more specifically the behaviors of the human beings employed in your organization represent your Culture. If your organizational design is out of alignment - the Culture will reflect it.

How do we do address Culture issues and misalignment in organizational structure? Aligning organizational structures varies based on size and complexity. Try these four things as a starting point:

  1. Review and revise expectations for all employees to include company values and the “Why” - This reinforces the values and provides a method to engage employees on the “Why” behind actions and decisions
  2. Review and revise recognition, incentives and promotion practices to reinforce company values – when companies grow quickly it is easy for these practices to fall out of alignment - practices demonstrate the "Why" to employees
  3. Use scheduled events to discuss the new expectations/practices and to gather feedback on progress
  4. Revisit annually to ensure expectations and practices are aligned to company values and the “Why”

This is a simple set of actions we can take on without outsourcing it to consultants to address the Cultural issues via organizational alignment.

Next let’s focus on role clarity and why it matters in your purposeful organizational design.

Jennifer Jacober