This week’s guest post is the first in Dr Zivit Inbar’s series about culture, recruitment and ethics for start-ups and SMEs. This post focuses on the often overlooked but crucially important topic of culture in start-ups. Of course, everything that applies to building great culture in start-ups also applies across the board in all organisations, so what follows is relevant to all readers. This post outlines 5 ‘types’ of culture that can materialise (either by choice or by circumstance) in a start-up, as well as the pitfalls related to each of them. Also included is a free White Paper that outlines 6 steps to building a great culture in a start-up (and ultimately in any business).
Culture is one of the two most used words in exit interviews. It is also a common reason behind failures of companies of all sizes. However, it feels like although everyone knows what culture is, when it comes to building a culture that supports organisational growth, many believe that this “fluffy” concept just evolves as the start-up grows. This is a wrong and risky assumption. Culture is a product of leadership and management; it can and should be proactively lead. It doesn’t cost money, nor requires resources, yet this does not mean that cultures should be ignored. The risks of getting culture wrong are too big! For every start-up, the window of opportunity is too small to ignore culture and let it evolves to whichever direction it takes. By not taking an active part in leading your start-up’s culture, you are building the path for its failure.
The role of culture in start-ups is so important and on the other hand heavily misunderstood that I have decided to dedicate a blog for this concept.
What is culture and why is it so important for any organisation, let alone for start-ups? Culture is sometimes seen as a “fluffy” concept, however this is an inaccurate perception.
There are many definitions of organisational culture; all are based on the same notion that the organisational culture is a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs that “glues” (integrates) people and dictates their behaviours. In specific:
So, whether you are aware of your company’s culture or not, this “fluffy” concept really makes the difference between success and failure. It can support or hinder the implementation of new initiatives, the achievement of company goals and hence its growth.
Organisations often like to conduct SWOT analyses. They analyse the internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats. Applying this same concept to culture provides an understanding of why culture is so important and shouldn’t be left unmanaged. While the organisational culture cannot directly influence external opportunities and threats, it does impact how the team reacts to and manages interactions with the external environment as well as how it operates internally.
Organisational culture shapes interactions with the external environment:
The capacity for, and receptiveness to change and the ability to adapt to the external environment are determined by the culture.
The way things are done internally influences performance and productivity:
In other words, culture can be seen as the internal threats and opportunities of organisations. Once you get the right culture, it drives great results. If start-ups get it wrong, the culture can hinder success and risk sustainability, as the window of opportunities is short.
There is no perfect culture, but there are certain cultural characteristics that can support or hinder success.
Culture, culture, culture… intended or not, it is always there! So instead of ignoring it, why not proactively manage your organisational culture and ensure that it provides opportunities for growth and success?
Each one of the above cultural characteristics can bring results you don’t want to see.
The first point to remember is that a start-up’s culture is built by the founders. Whether intentionally or unconsciously, the founders are role models for the start-up’s employees and set the cultural tone. As the start-up grows and goes through different stages, the culture changes (or should change) as well. So, you have control of the culture and can change it as the start-up evolves.
The second point to keep in mind is that as with everything else in life, culture is about finding the right balance. You can enjoy problem solving, engage with brainstorming and visioning activities, but you also need to ensure that it is balanced with both market and client engagement and that your employees know what they need to achieve and are focused on that goal.
If you would like to discover more about how you can leverage the cultural opportunity in your organisation, download the White Paper below.
Dr. Zivit Inbar is a People and Performance expert in the field of Technology VC’s and Startups.
An Industry Professor in the MBA Program at Deakin University (Melbourne), Zivit is a non-executive director, senior executive, advisory board member and acting chair with over 15 years’ leadership experience at board and executive levels.
Zivit’s expertise spans:
Zivit has a PhD by research focused on strategic thinking and strategy implementation by Western companies operating in China. Ethical Kaleidoscope: The Role of Boards in Leading Corporate Ethics, co-authored by Dr. Zivit Inbar, is coming out later in 2016.
Source: Subscribe-HR Blog
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