The Future of Organisational Culture Design: Open Source and Dynamic Business Cultures

Organisational culture design is a fast-growing area of research and practice in the fields of organisational change, human resources, and organizational development. It is an emerging intersection between culture and design thinking that has specific methodology and tools. Organisational culture design is a process that brings intentional focus on how people work together as a team or organization. Culture design involves the creation, evolution, and maintenance of the unspoken rules that guide people’s behaviour within an organization or team. It also helps leaders create cultures that support their business strategy by integrating values, mission, vision and purpose into tangible practices. This article explores some of the key ideas about organisational culture design, dynamic business cultures, open source organisational culture design methodology, and other related topics.

What Is Organisational Culture Design?

Organisational culture design is the process of creating and evolving the unspoken rules that guide people’s behaviour in a team or organisation. It is an intersection of culture and design thinking that has specific methodology and tools. Culture design is not just about communications or branding, but it’s about creating a culture that supports the business strategy by integrating values, mission, vision, and purpose into tangible practices. Culture is the way people do things within an organisation, and design is about intentional focus on how those things get done. It is about creating space for people to bring their ideas to the table, and then voting on which ones to keep. When culture design is done well, it creates a culture where people are empowered to take action and are able to say “no” to things that are not useful to the business strategy. When done badly, culture design can create an environment of fear where people are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Good culture design happens when you create an environment of trust.

Why is the Culture of an Organisation Important?

Some argue that culture is the most important part of an organisation, while others argue that the strategy is the most important part. The truth is that culture and strategy are inextricably linked – one cannot exist without the other. Business strategy is not just about the financial plan for the next few years; it is about how the company will make a positive contribution to the world. A company’s culture also helps determine who is attracted to the company, who is retained and the way the company engages with those employees. Organisational culture is the unspoken rules that guide people’s behaviour within an organisation. The culture of an organisation is important because people outside of the company often can’t see that culture. They can only see what is happening on the surface – but this is impacted by what is going on under the surface. The culture of an organisation impacts every employee – from the CEO to the receptionist, from the developers to the sales staff. When the culture is strong, it is a major competitive advantage for the company and employee engagement is great. When the culture is weak, it is one of the major challenges the company has to face. To the outside world, culture is often invisible.

How is organisational design different from Human Resources?

Organisational design and human resources are also intertwined. Organisational design brings strategic focus on how people work together as a team or organisation. Human resources brings strategic focus on the talent and people within the organisation. Organisational design is not just a fancy way of saying HR. This is not a turf war. Organisational design is an emerging field of research and practice that focuses on the culture of the organisation. It is not the same as human resources, but it is an important part of HR.

Culture is the most important part of an organisation. It is not something you can hire or fire. This is why organisational designers are focused on designing the culture of the organisation. Human resources professionals are typically focused on managing the talent within that.

Who owns organisational culture – the c-suite or Human Resources?

There is a common misperception that the organisational culture is the sole responsibility of Human Resources. While it is true that HR is responsible for managing the day-to-day culture of the organisation, the c-suite has a critical role to play in shaping the organisational culture. Let’s consider the example of Facebook. When Mark Zuckerberg hired Sheryl Sandberg to lead HR, he also hired her to help shape the organisational culture. When Sandberg joined Facebook, she brought a strong belief that Facebook should be a place where “people could be their real selves.” This ideal became an important part of the organisational culture. As Facebook grew, the company’s organisational culture became increasingly complex. It was at this point that Zuckerberg brought in a seasoned organisational design professional (Jonathan Taylor) to help evolve Facebook’s culture. Taylor’s role was not just to manage the culture, but to partner with the c-suite to help shape it. This is an important point. Culture is not the sole responsibility of HR. It is a shared responsibility among the c-suite and HR. This doesn’t mean that HR doesn’t play an important role in shaping organisational culture – it does. It just means that the c-suite has an equal role to play in this process.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Organisational Culture Design

Organisational culture design can be broken down into three basic steps.

The first step is to create a shared understanding of the organisation’s current culture. What is the culture like today? What are the strengths of the culture, and what are the weaknesses? This is typically done through a quick conversation with the key stakeholders. This conversation can be facilitated by a cultural design professional or a change agent.

The next step is to identify a set of desired culture attributes. These are the traits that the team wants to see in the organisation. Once the team agrees on a set of desired culture attributes, they need to be translated into a set of values, which sit alongside the purpose, mission and vision. Values are tangible and actionable. A value is not an image, logo, or slogan. It is something that the team can use to guide their day-to-day decision making.

The final step is to create a strategy. This is the business strategy that will be used to guide the organisation. The strategy is driven but the purpose, mission and vision. The strategy should be consistent with the organisational design process to make sure that the culture and values are grounded in the strategy. The mission dictates what the aim is, the vision shows what it will look like once the mission is complete, and the values guide behaviours along that path.

Dynamic Organisational Cultures

Organisational culture is often seen as static – something that is either present or absent, or can be sorted in a single piece of work, and checked in on every now and again. Organisational culture designers often look for ways to “add” culture to an organisation. But what if organisations actually have multiple cultures? What if organisations change cultures over time? These are important questions that require investigation during an organisational design process. One way to explore dynamic organisational cultures is to evaluate the organizational members’ perception of the culture at various points in time. This can be done through a culture survey, or using the right technology to achieve this.

Open Source Culture Design Methodology

Open source culture design methodology is an approach to organisational culture design. It is not a specific methodology, but a framework for designing an organisational culture. In an open source organisation, people are encouraged to share their ideas with the team and vote on the ideas that others have shared. This process is designed to create a dynamic culture where ideas are constantly flowing and evolving. With open source culture design, people bring ideas to the table, and collectively agree on how to implement these. They also discuss what stops them from taking action. The goal of this process is to create a safe environment where it is OK to say “we can’t do that” or “I don’t want to do that.” The most important part of the process is defining the right question and the voting on ideas. This is the moment when people choose which ideas to keep and which ones to discard. This is the moment when culture begins to take shape.

It is important to note at this stage that this is why the vision, mission and purpose became so important, as they set scope to these conversations and votes.

In implementing this approach, you can change your culture into a place that people will want to work for and tell others about. This will help improve recruitment and retention, and drive your employee engagement as well as individual wellbeing.

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