November 11 2012

Reporting the Organizational Culture

What is the best method of describing the organizational culture? You've got all the information, positive and negative comments, qualitative and quantitative data and various narratives and observations from walking the floor. Now what?

My experience is to right the beginning summary of observations after the rest of the report is completed. I tend to focus on 5 key areas for the core content of the report, namely communications, leadership, interaction with others in the organization, external influences and adherence to policy and procedure.

Communications covers the methods, style and transparency. Such elements will include appropriate audience, levels of message cascade and identify secrecy and inappropriate restrictions of information and methods for sharing information with accessibility and opportunity to respond. Within communications it would be good to identify how appraisal reporting, performance measurement and individual assessment is communicated. This can be used to neatly lead into leadership as a category.

Within leadership, a vast array of areas are usually covered, but mainly focus on management style, appropriate use of power and control, spans of responsibility both for personnel and tasks, decision making and consultation as well as independency and empowerment.  

I prefer to use interaction with others in the organization as a topic in preference to team working, because current organizational structures depend so much more on matrix management, integrated and temporary teams that individuals find themselves within many teams, groups and management chains within an organization. When discussing this element of the report I focus on subordinate, level and upward interactions within own areas and other parts of the business. Discussion looks at taking responsibility, ability to work successfully with others to achieve a common goal, types of interaction and ability to fulfill dependencies across the organization.

External influences cover customers, clients and other stakeholders impact with reference to how the organization responds to feedback and changing needs of these. Also the way the business provides service and the approach of the people to these external - do they respect them or find them annoying?

Finally observing the organizations adherence to policy and procedure reflects the respect the employees may have for the organization and its purpose. If there is a lack of adherence then it could be because practice has developed that has not been assessed and those who follow this informal procedure do so without consideration of consequences of their actions. This can indicate a lack of organizational development and a need for more regular learning needs assessments. This is a very clear way to address the learning practice in the organization without directly addressing the facilitators or their syllabuses.

Within each of these areas the narrative defines the category scope, provides findings and impact of findings within the organization and then suggested improvements and recommendations where necessary. It is also worth compiling a summary index of any recommended next and future activities to bring about a more appropriate or desired culture within the organization.

Finally, summarise your findings with a few key positives and a few key challenges that have the biggest impact and potential for improvement. With this as the opening executive summary to the report you will have a really good organizational culture appraisal document that provides a snapshot of the time and a reference for future reviews.

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