Organisational Culture – Will Over-Ride Education, Intelligence and Common Sense

Organisational culture – this is a subject that I find tends to get a somewhat polarised reaction whenever I discuss it with directors.

There is either a polite indifference and “…well let’s get on with discussing the practical aspects of how we’re going to do this?” type of response; or considerable interest then the question: “How can we actually deal with it and change it?”.

In both cases there is the feeling that culture is a “soft” intangible subject that is difficult to discuss in specific terms, and in the first response the belief that because we can’t see it or really get a handle on it then it’s irrelevant.

Can I challenge you now… as you are reading this… how do you feel about the culture(s) of your [and your clients’] organisation?

Do you feel that it’s an important aspect of your step change initiative – or to be truthful, do you feel that whilst it’s an interesting abstraction it’s not really THAT big a deal?

There are several key factors that will determine whether you join the long list of 70% failures with your step change initiative – or whether you really do succeed and realise the benefits. Those factors are:

(1) Determining that you are embarking on a step change that sits outside of business as usual and needs to be handled as a specific initiative
(2) The quality of leadership that you provide
(3) Using a programme management based approach to your step change initiative
(4) The thoroughness of your pre programme review and planning process
(5) The extent to which you identify and address the cultural change in your organisation that is required to deliver the step change and the desired business benefit.

Organisational culture is the sum of your organisation’s key characteristics, values, and beliefs and is evidenced in actions and behaviour.


  • There are usually sub-cultures [often many] within any organisation
  • It is frequently “invisible” to those within it
  • It filters and distorts data received via the organisation – in line with the beliefs and values etc stored within it
  • It holds the “hidden software” that will determine how the organisation behaves
  • It determines what it focuses on
  • It is the source of the “hard-wired” resistance to change team culture examples
  • The successful “reprogramming” of it is critical for a successful change programme


In my experience, it is the single biggest determinant of how an individual will behave within a business or organisational environment. It will over-ride education, intelligence and common-sense.

I have seen many senior people in large organisations behave in ways that on occasions defied common sense and the “blindingly obvious” – and they weren’t aware of it [or if they were, they certainly weren’t letting on!]