Creating and sustaining Culture

An organization’s culture doesn’t pop out of thin air. Once established, it rarely fades away. What faces influence the creation of a culture? What reinforces and sustains these forces they are in place? We answer both of these questions in this article.

How a culture begins?

An organization’s current customs, traditions and general way of doing things are largely due to what it has done the degree of success it has had with those endeavors. This leads us to the ultimate source of an organization’s culture: its founders.

The founders of an organization traditionally have a major impact that organization’s early culture. They have a vision of what the organization should be. They are unconstrained by previous customs or ideologies. The small size that typically characterizes new organization further facilitates the founders’ imposition of their vision on all organizational members. Culture creation occurs in many ways. First founders hire and keep only employees who think and feel the same way they do. Second they indoctrinate and socialize these employees to their way of thinking and feeling. And finally, the founders own behavior act as a role model that encourages employees to identify with them and thereby internalize their beliefs, values and assumptions. When the organization succeeds the founders’ vision becomes seen as a primary determinant of that success. At this point, the founders’ entire personality becomes embedded in the culture of the organization.

The culture at Hyundai, the giant Korean conglomerate is largely a reflection of its order Chung Ju Yung. Hyundai’s fierce competitive style ad its disciplined authoritarian natures are the same characteristics often used to describe Chung. Other contemporary examples of founders who have had an immeasurable impact on their organization’s culture would include Bill Gates at Microsoft Ingvar Kamprad at IKEA, Herb Kelleher at South west Airlines, and Richard Bronson at the Virgin Group.

Keeping a culture Alive:

Once a culture is in place, there are practices within the organizations that act to maintain it by giving employees a set of similar experiences. For example, many of the human resources practices reinforce the organization’s culture. The selection process performance evaluation criteria training and development activities and promotion procedures ensure that those hired fit with the culture reward those who support it, and penalize (and even expel) those who challenge it. Three forces play a particularly important part in sustaining a culture: selection practices, the actions of top management and socialization methods. Let us take a closer look at each.

Selection: The explicit goal of the selection process is to identify and hire individuals who have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the jobs within the organization successfully. Typically more than one candidate will be identified who meets any given job’s requirement. When that point is reached, it would be naïve to ignore the fact that the final decision as to who is hired will be significantly influenced by the decision maker’s judgment of how well the candidates will fit into the organization. Their attempt to ensure a proper match whether purposely or inadvertently, results in the hiring of people who have values essentially consistent with those of the organizations or at least a good portion of those values. In addition, the selection process provides information to applicants about the organization. Candidates learn about the organization and if they perceive a conflict between their values and those of the organization they can self select themselves out of the applicant pool. Selection therefore becomes a two way street allowing employer or applicant to abrogate a marriage when there appears to be mismatch. In this way, the selection process sustains an organization’s culture by selecting out those individuals who might attack or undermine its core values.