Is Community The New Culture?

Today’s popular mantra is that you need a good culture to be successful. Culture, we’re told, is essentially everything. This has been echoed by various leading thinkers within our industry for the last 30 to 40 years.

But have we gone too far? Have we instead strayed towards developing ‘cults’ rather than ‘cultures’?

The Manufacturing Institute’s Leadership and Enterprise Excellence Coach, Adam Buckley, asks if now is the time for a different change of culture…

What is culture?

Organisational culture is a collection of behavioural standards, values and expectations used to guide members of an organisation. Part of the challenge companies have is to try and get employees to adopt or follow the rules associated with those standards.

This is where the line is blurred between culture and cult. I think many businesses are actually going to too much of an extreme.

Cult or culture?

Take a moment to consider how many of the following points apply to your organisation:

  • All-knowing leadership
  • Compliance with the group
  • No room for differences
  • Individualism is discouraged
  • Feeling like a ‘cog in the wheel’
  • Company language and rituals, including compulsory chants and cheers

If any of those points stand out to you, this could be a sign of a bad company culture.

The need to define and control

Over the years, our organisations have developed a kind of straightjacket, which is reflected in the organisational structure. This is the same hierarchy used to put people in boxes. Together with elaborate rules and procedures, people get treated more as puppets. Their behaviour is increasingly controlled, and they are encouraged to follow norms, standards, rules and protocols.

We naturally look to define and control behaviour. But when a company takes away an employee’s ability to be an individual, they tend to become more robotic.

What’s more, this is in direct contrast with the way the world is evolving.

The impact of globalisation

Globalisation is beginning to have a massive influence on organisations and their decision-making. Companies are slowly recognising that they’re being confined by this straightjacket, and are making a conscious effort to break out of it.

When an organisation diversifies its operations, we start to see people from different ethnic backgrounds and social cultures come together. We also begin to see different generations joining organisations, from baby boomers and Generation X to millennials and centennials. Needless to say, the different needs and wants of those generations are changing the dynamics within organisations, causing them to become far more virtual.

Because of the disparate nature of the workforce today, we can no longer sustain culture in its classic sense. It relies too heavily on constraint and order. So, is community the new culture?

Communities strengthen businesses

It goes without saying that people long for community. They want to be part of something  that gives them a voice and an opportunity to be heard, whether that be through social media, sports, religion or even politics.

Although it has certainly caused disruption across all industries, one thing that’s accelerating the need for a focus on community is the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve worked with many organisations during this time, and I’ve seen leaders and managers adapt to being unable to physically direct people. Rather than this having a negative impact, many of their employees have taken charge – and performance has actually improved.

This proves that a virtual community and sense of trust is strengthening businesses, causing them to evolve dramatically in line with the world at large. By exploiting diversity and individualisation, we can challenge ourselves and become more creative and innovative.

Leadership in the virtual age

Of course, this idea of community is nothing new. If we look back to the Industrial Revolution, we can see that community was the backbone of building businesses – whether they were in wool or textiles, shipbuilding or coal mining – as well as our economy. The difference today is that we are talking about community being virtual, rather than potentially physical.

I believe that the best businesses don’t push culture, they build communities. If you’d like to learn more about driving this kind of change within your organisation, enrol on our leadership development bootcamp. It explores lean manufacturing techniques and interpersonal skills, and is perfect for managers, supervisors and senior members of staff who want to lead their team to success.

At this moment in time the course is only available virtually, although we hope to continue our face-to-face classroom sessions in 2021. Get in touch today for more details.

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