BRIGHT & NIMBLE OR TIMID & TIRED: Nonprofit Culture can mean the difference between growth and simply surviving
In previous posts and workshops we have said that your organization is like a car and its make, year, color and condition reflect your brand. Your organization's culture is harder to describe in tangible terms. At best, it’s a combination of what is in your glove compartment, the car rules (i.e. no eating in the car!), how well the passengers get along, and how often the driver has to turn around and yell at them. But culture is as important, sometimes even more important, as the fuel-efficiency of the car, its overall condition, and even the competency of the driver. This is especially true when the organization is trying to innovate, has to make an unexpected or planned change, or simply in the course of carrying out a strategic plan.
Does the cycle to the right feel familiar? If so, there is a good chance that the reason your innovation or planned change has failed is that your organizational culture, defined as "the values, norms, unconscious messages, and subtle behaviors of leaders and employees," is stuck in neutral. Resistance to Change, Fear, Uncertainty, Inertia, and Risk-aversion are all by-products of your culture and are the killers of innovation and adaptation. For nonprofits, your Board and Staff cultures can limit innovative ideas or execution of these ideas.
So who makes and who can re-shape an organization's culture? While research clearly identifies that top leaders (both past and present) shape culture; strategic direction, structure, processes, and rewards reinforce it. People practices, such as performance management, talent development, and empowerment, also play a strong role in an organization's culture. So top leaders, of both Staff and Board should heed this from a Fast Company article:
"Every organization is designed to get the results it gets. Poor performance comes from a poorly designed organization. Superior results emerge when strategies, business models, structure, processes, technologies, tools, and reward systems fire on all cylinders in symphonic unison. Savvy leaders shape the culture of their company to drive innovation. They know that it's culture--the values, norms, unconscious messages, and subtle behaviors of leaders and employees--that often limits performance."