A culture, as I’ve written in the past, is like yogurt. It’s dynamic, changing and sometimes it can go sour. I’ve shared on this Blog a number of culture types determining essentially that culture is “how we get things done around here”. Said a different way, company or organizational culture is made up of the values and practices shared by the members of the group.
When I started at Thomas Nelson I asked my employees to do something I’d done with other groups. I use a worksheet that outlines more than 50 common values (If you’d like a PDF, just post a comment or send me a direct message and I’ll email it to you). I ask the employees to name their top five and also rank them. After compiling all the results (I do a bit of cross-tabbing so I can see how different groups respond, but never ask for a person’s name) I have a good picture of the common values of the group.
As a second step, I take the compiled top five and ask the team to define them. Semantics and nuance in this area are too important to leave to chance so I want the definition of the team’s top five values.
It’s also interesting to look at the bottom five as they give leaders a glimpse into the culture for a totally different perspective. For example, five years ago “Information Sharing” was in the Bible Group’s bottom five. It told me a lot about the culture I was inheriting and gave me a big hint of what I needed to do as a leader to promote team work.
Since it’s been five years and we’ve had some changes to the team, we’re taking it again. In a future post, I’ll compare and contrast the two results.
My takeaway from all this? Doing this exercise helps me answer this question: Are the values of the team aligned with my vision and the culture my leadership team and I are trying to build? Most of the time we can legislate practices, but values are deeply held beliefs and if their don’t align with the mission, it takes time, patience, teaching and good leadership to cause the alignment necessary to create something very special.
What are your work group’s top five values?