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Business failures are blamed on culture

YET, why do so many leaders continue to ignore the role culture plays in driving decision making and behaviours?

The key to implementing strategy successfully is understanding and shaping the unseen influence of what we call culture, ways of working; the unspoken and accepted practices that new appointees don’t necessarily understand until they become part of the fabric and furniture of the living organisation.

Some organisations will have stated values and call this ‘our culture’. However, values can only ever be an aspiration unless you can evidence that values are lived by leaders, managers and employees alike. Some organisations use staff surveys to say we measure our culture, but in my experience staff surveys have limited use. Typical staff surveys provide you with high level information on employee perspectives, but this is meaningless unless you place it in context of 'this is the kind of organisation we are' vis-à-vis 'the kind of organisation we want to be'.

Some leaders lead their organisations intuitively. They intuitively understand that their influence will result in an environment where employees set processes, make decisions, take actions, monitor, correct, repeat. They are careful and considerate about how they influence their immediate environment. But the bigger the organisation, the more complicated the structures and layers in hierarchy, culture will be influenced in other ways.

In a small organisation culture can be controlled - a small organisation is heavily influenced by the person or people who have founded it. The bigger the organisation, the more challenging the environment becomes. The more dispersed an organisation is, the greater the risk of culture diverging. What happens, when the organisation goes global and has presence in multiple locations around the world? At what point do teams and local management influence the working practices of an organisation, which diverge from the intention of the top brass? At what point will national culture influence and shape corporate culture?

These are challenges that are real, but are often not addressed head on in a meaningful way. This is the essence of what I have been working, bringing together two decades of technical experience and knowledge of governance, risk and control practices, built on an academic background in psychology and social anthropology, an understanding of culture and behaviours, my extensive experience of training individuals, and working with organisation design and HR specialists to bring to you unique perspectives.

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