Executives are increasingly recognizing the importance of deliberately managing organizational culture. A recent survey found that 84% of respondents agreed that their organization’s culture is critical to business success. The same survey found that 96% of respondents said that some change to their culture is needed, and 51% believe it needs a major overhaul.
Unfortunately, many leaders feel ill-equipped to initiate the necessary culture change. I rarely have clients argue that the culture of their organization does not need to change. More commonly, their question is “how should we go about it?” In answering this question, I have found that it can be very useful to look to the church as a role model for structuring their company’s cultural transformation.
Let’s begin by defining organizational culture. Perhaps the most widely accepted definition of ‘organizational culture’ comes from Edgar Schein. He defines culture as:
“a pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.”
From this definition we see that at its core, an organizational culture is a set of “shared basic assumptions.” What better example of an organization with a strongly shared set of basic assumptions can you think of than your local church? By no means do I intend to be irreverent in stating this. I’m not endorsing or denigrating any particular church or religion. In using the term “church,” I’m not referring to solely a Christian Church. You could also say the same about a Jewish Synagogue, a Muslim Mosque, or any other religious institution. I’m simply pointing out if you want to examine an organization that has a very closely-held and strongly-shared set of beliefs, then look no further than your local church, regardless of the particular faith, doctrine, or denomination.
Hence, what can we learn from the church about how it creates a strong organizational culture? Here are six measures a church takes to ensure its members share a common set of beliefs:
What do you think? Is deliberately managing your organization's culture important to you? What strategies or tactics are you using to drive culture change?