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Culture and Values - The same but different?


team of people celebrating success

Organisations, regardless of their industry or size, are more than just structured groups of individuals. They are living, evolving entities, with unique cultures and sets of values that drive their operations, attitudes, and behaviour. Organisational culture and values serve as integral aspects of an organisation's identity, influencing everything from decision-making processes to employee engagement.


Organisational Culture: An Overview


Organisational culture refers to the beliefs, behaviours, and shared understanding within an organisation. It's the invisible glue that binds an organisation's people together and acts as a guide for "how things are done here". Organisational culture includes a variety of elements, including work environment, company mission, values, ethics, expectations, and goals. It can be observed in the unwritten dress code, the level of formality in interactions, and the allocation of resources.


Organisational Values: An Overview


Organisational values, on the other hand, represent the core principles that guide an organisation’s actions; they define what an organisation stands for. Values can include aspects like integrity, respect, innovation, and customer service. They serve as a compass for the organisation's decision-making process and provide a standard for employees' behaviour.


Similarities between Culture and Values


Organisational culture and values are inherently intertwined. They both:

  1. Influence Behaviour: Culture provides the social environment in which people operate, while values guide the behaviour within that environment. They are vital in shaping the attitudes and behaviours of employees within the organisation.

  2. Shape Decision Making: Both culture and values inform decision-making processes within an organisation. They shape not only what decisions are made, but also how those decisions are reached.

  3. Contribute to Identity: Together, culture and values form the identity of an organisation. They define its character, guide its actions, and establish its reputation in the market.

  4. Impact Performance: The performance and success of an organisation are significantly impacted by its culture and values. Research has shown a direct link between positive organisational culture and values, employee engagement, and business performance.

Differences between Culture and Values


Despite their similarities and interrelated nature, organisational culture and values also exhibit several differences:

  1. Tangibility: While both elements are largely intangible, values are often explicitly stated and can be precisely articulated, while culture is typically observed and experienced rather than explicitly defined.

  2. Modification: Organisational values are usually set by the leadership and can be intentionally adjusted or changed, albeit with some effort. On the other hand, culture tends to be deeply rooted and can be extremely difficult to change once it has taken hold. It evolves organically over time and reflects shared experiences and history.

  3. Scope: Organisational values tend to be broad, overarching principles, while culture is often nuanced and can vary across different teams or departments within the same organisation.

The Interplay between Culture and Values


Organisational culture and values don’t exist in isolation. They feed off each other, creating a cycle that can either enhance or hamper organisational performance. The values of an organisation influence its culture, while the prevailing culture can impact how values are perceived and implemented. Ideally, an organisation's culture and values should be aligned. An organisational culture that embodies its values creates an environment where employees feel valued, resulting in increased engagement, productivity, and retention. On the contrary, a mismatch between culture and values can lead to confusion, reduced morale, and high turnover rates.


Conclusion


Understanding the nuances between organisational culture and values is essential for any business leader. While culture and values are distinct aspects of an organisation, they are closely intertwined and significantly influence the functioning and success of an organisation. Leaders should strive to create an organisational culture that not only reflects but also enhances the company's values, leading to a cohesive, positive, and productive work environment.


For support in implementing culture and change programs within your organisation, email us at hello@envisago.com or book a call with us today.

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