[Advice] Culture Matters

Culture means something.


We forget about the clarion call of culture in our pell-mell run toward the future. But culture matters, particularly in companies and organizations. Culture, as defined by the cultural anthropologist E. B. Taylor, is the complex whole that includes morals, knowledge, arts, beliefs, law, customs, capabilities and habits, acquired by people as a part of society.

Culture means human beings connecting with other human beings.

Start-ups get this sometimes. The ones that don’t fail, the ones that do succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

Established organizations forget that culture matters after a certain level of cultural inertia happens. When organizations begin hiring, and it expands to more than 150 people, culture is often forgotten in the pursuit of making profits and appealing to the shareholders’ demands.

Nonprofits underestimate the power of the culture they create and that they help develop. Then they wonder why they can’t raise more money, or struggle to justify grant funding year-on-year.

All of these different stories about culture in different organizations create the dynamic cloud that covers the creation of a society, and an overall culture.

There are three things to remember when developing a culture for your project:

  • Conflicts will happen, whether you have 30 people or 150 people. It seems cool when you’re talking about 30 people and “how exciting it all is,” but how people deal with conflicts will determine how the project grows…or doesn’t…
  • Hiring people is really important. Teams, belonging, and pedigree matter. Or they don’t. When building a company culture, knowing what you’re going to emphasize versus what you’re not going to emphasize is important. And it has to show up on more than just your website’s home page.
  • Failure is not an option, but learning is. This is not an excuse to make bad decisions. There are enough of those excuses out there. However, learning about how people—customers, clients, investors, fans, audience members, etc.—react and respond to your product and your culture, gives you an opportunity toward growth. Typically called a feedback loop, we here at HSCT call it a learning curve.

Here is the challenge question for your organization: If culture means something when developing your project, when was the last time you took the time, to examine how your culture could be better?

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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