Culture comes from the Latin word ‘cultura’ deriving from ‘colere’ which means ‘to cultivate’ and generally refers to ‘patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activity significance.” It is a complex system with a multitude of interrelated processes and mechanism that keep it running along.
Termed as Corporate Culture in an organizational context, it is referred to as the sum total of the values, customs, traditions and meanings that make a company unique. It is often called “the character of an organization” since it embodies the vision of the company’s founders. The values of a corporate culture influence the ethical standards within a corporation, as well as managerial behavior. Put simply, Corporate Culture is often defined as “the way we do things around here.”
As culture reflects the ingrained and automatic behaviors of a group built over a sustained period of time, changing one’s corporate culture can be very complicated. Paradigms, language, behavior, rites and rituals and other elements that have been formed, embraced and practiced over time can be very difficult to unlearn. However, when people in an organization realize and recognize that their current organizational culture is no longer sustainable and needs to be transformed to support the organization’s success and progress, change can occur.
While organizational culture change is a tough undertaking, it is certainly possible. One of the effective ways to change corporate culture is through STORIES. Stories convey your culture. If the current story of the company speaks of how hard your people work, life enforcing that they report even during their wedding day, your employees have likely shared their sentiments to their families and friends and your company has earned numerous criticisms and complaints from them. Therefore, if you want to change the culture, you have to change the stories. To start culture change, Peter Bregman, in his article, “A Good Way to Change a Corporate Culture.” suggested two ways: (1). Do dramatic story-worthy things that represent the culture we want to create. Then let other people tell stories about it; and (2). Find other people who do story-worthy things that represent the culture we want to create. Then tell stories about them.
People like telling stories and they react to stories they hear. Stories have the capacity to change us and its subliminal effect to every employee in the company consequently changes the corporate culture.
This explains why meetings and performance reviews can be powerful venues to building or changing the culture. While sales charts, financial statements and ROI percentages speak of performance results, they don’t captivate the hearts and minds of listeners. If leaders want to reinforce behaviors that drive performance, stories on how the company has successfully evolved can be mentioned during meetings. Senior Management can cite milestones and who in the organization are champions of these successes. On the other hand, they can likewise share how employees who perform below par impact organizational performance. Such stories would trigger a response to everyone who listens and allow them to develop performance-driven paradigms and behaviors as they sensed that high performers are recognized and appreciated in the company. Employees will tend to be more conscious on how they can help the organization achieve operational efficiency and meet performance targets. They will prioritize tasks that deliver expected results whenever they report to work. Every day at work becomes an opportunity for them to contribute something to that desired performance espoused by Senior Management. In this way, stories and not merely data or numbers moved employees to generate results.
The impact of the story to every listener appeals to them in various ways and the effect is heightened in the way people think and feel. A story is a powerful tool to elicit change, spurs the listeners into action and generates positive energy to support that change. A successful storytelling, therefore, triggers the minds of listeners to create a new sense of meaning for them to bring about a new organization-life story.
Written by: AU PINUELA