Culture audit: why your organization needs one

Before a culture audit, you need to understand the current culture at any organization. The right culture provides a foundation for high performance.  Do

Before a culture audit, you need to understand the current culture at any organization. The right culture provides a foundation for high performance.  Do not start speeding before you define the destination. A culture to put in place a strategy is critical. If you just wake up from the bed and begin running in any direction, the chances that you will end nowhere are very high. Speed without direction is useless. First, define the direction and begin running towards that direction.  The strategy provides the right direction. And culture gives the discipline to drive safely on the road.

Why do conduct a cultural audit?

A culture audit helps determine the values, beliefs, and practices that are dominant in the organization – particularly when you start to focus on encouraging innovation, winning attitude, agility, and implementing change initiatives for improved performance. However, it can be hard to clarify which values are strongest without a culture audit. You will not understand the beliefs system. Leaders love to talk about values – integrity, collaboration, etc. However, without the right habits, it is difficult to live the values.

First, why the values? How did you come up with such values? Many times, people sit in a board room and begin thinking of good things. At the end of the day, the values that are documented are disconnected from reality on the ground. Before you define your values, first implement a cultural audit to understand the dominant beliefs. This helps you align the corporate values with the realities on the ground.

A culture audit helps to identify the predominant culture type – the desired culture type to find ways to win. Is your current culture toxic or productive? You cannot improve something that you do not know. A culture audit is a sign of great leadership for the willingness to transform the organization through identifying the ideal culture.  A business transformation guru once said: “Culture drives expectations and beliefs. Expectations and beliefs drive behaviour. Behaviour drives habits. Habits create the future.” And that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, meaning that an organization with a poor culture cannot execute strategy seamlessly.

Culture is the reason why great organizations have sustained success. Look at Apple or Toyota, or any other special company, each has a unique culture of consistent excellence in everything they do.  A company without culture is like a team with members who are strange to one another. You want to achieve the same goal, but you don’t know the values, habits, and behaviour as well as the skills and competence of your colleagues. The result is playing hard individually and not passing the ball to optimize the team synergies to increase the chances of winning the game. Business is a game that calls for a team effort. Culture is not what is said. It is what is done. When it comes to culture, actions speak louder than words.  So, how would you define your current organizational culture?

Where to start when doing a cultural audit

The same place you would start when doing an investigation around any critical aspect of your business. If you are working too much but money is getting lost, you start with a financial audit or conduct revenue assurance to ascertain how much you expect and how much was recorded. If you are spending a lot of money on marketing, but no return in terms of sales, conduct a market competitiveness survey to understand the value for money being spent.

The same way applies to a culture audit. If people are coming late to work, lazy what do you do? You conduct an audit of their behaviour. That’s where a cultural audit comes in. The cultural audit gives a foundation to take your organization to the next level.

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