A Lesson in Quickly Establishing a Culture

by Michael Haberman on June 24, 2013 · 1 comment

Shrm 13 logoAs you might expect when you have a number of HR speakers talking to audiences of HR professionals the topic of “culture” might be a common topic. SHRM13 was no exception. There were several lessons on but I want to talk about one lesson in particular about how to quickly establish a culture.

Tying innovation to Culture

The new Chair of the SHRM Board of Director, Bette Francis, SPHR addressed the subject of culture in relation to innovation. She stressed that business today need to work their way out of problems by innovation and HR plays a key role in that process. Francis said “All of us here today can play a critical role in creating real organizational change by helping build a culture that actively supports innovation.” According to Francis the number one barrier to innovation is culture. To have a culture of innovation a company must:

  • Encourage collaboration
  • Give people the confidence to make suggestions
  • See mistakes as steps on the road to progress.

Leadership has major impact

One of the sessions I attended was led by China Gorman, CEO of the CMG Group and Allyson Willoughby, Senior VP of People at Glassdoor. They talked about the role that the executive suite plays in shaping an organization’s culture. Both related personal experiences in helping their organizations establish the desired culture. All organizations have a culture, but without executive influence and guidance it may not be the culture needed to make the strides desired.

Show business shows the way

After the conference I had the opportunity to have dinner with my daughter, who is on the management team for a theatrical production playing in Chicago. I attended her show and after the show we went to dinner. I was curious about how and what they did to make the troupe of players gel so quickly.  A show is faced with the challenge of selecting players, getting them trained and then gelled as a team in order to produce a “product” that people will want to see and keep returning to see. One of the additional challenges is the performers by nature are creative people. So my question to her was “how did you do that?”

She told me that they spend a lot of time together, not just during rehearsal and show times but in times outside the show. They create, coordinate and encourage dinners, movies and games. They also allow creative outlets to allow the performers to have fun. They actually have fashion shows once a month that are competitive. That may not sound like a big deal until you realize these are held during the 15 minute intermission of a show. They come off stage, change costumes, hold the contest, award a prize, and are ready to comeback on stage when the curtain rises. Everyone in the cast, including dressers, stagehands, and even managers are allowed to participate. It bonds the group.

I thought this was a great example of how you can establish a culture that promotes a high performing organization without having to take forever to do it.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sally D. Schroeder July 1, 2013 at 1:30 am

It is more difficult to change the culture of an existing organization than to create a culture in a brand new organization. When an organizational culture is already established, people must unlearn the old values, assumptions, and behaviors before they can learn the new ones.

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