“Contains active cultures.” How often have you read this on the sides of yogurt containers? Well, healthy organizations contain active cultures too.
Active cultures — not just for yogurt any more
Just as there are hundreds of different strains of probiotic cultures, there are many ways to think about organizational culture. For example, you might focus on descriptive approaches: an organization’s core beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions about “what is” and “why is”, plus customary ways of interacting. Or, you could concentrate on a behavioral approach: how an organization consistently does things.
Unfortunately, in many organizational cultures the descriptive culture isn’t congruent with the behavioral reality. Ultimately, however you define organizational culture, what interests most people is changing it, hopefully for the better.
That’s where active (aka adaptive or adhocracy) organizational cultures shine.
What’s an active organizational culture?
An active organizational culture is one where it’s safe and routine for people to:
- Share their needs and how they might be met;
- Question current organizational beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, and patterns of interaction; and
- Try new ways to work together.
Changing organizational culture
In passive cultures, needs go unmet, the culture discourages questioning beliefs and attitudes, and a “we’ve always done it this way” attitude predominates. Not surprisingly, a passive culture often “smells.” Like outdated yogurt it probably won’t kill you, but it isn’t a pleasant experience.
From a behavioral perspective, organizational culture is “an emergent set of patterns that are formed from the interactions between people.” So changing organizational culture is a matter of changing the interactions between people. An active organizational culture, thanks to the characteristics listed above, has the environment and tools for changing interaction patterns, making the organization healthier in the process.
Does your organization contain active cultures? What about other organizational cultures you’ve experienced? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Image attribution: pixabay