Organizational Culture: Take it or leave it, but it’s yours


Close up of men's rowing teamCan organizational culture predict the success or failure of your Office 365 rollout? Absolutely. The positive (or negative) impact of your organization’s culture has a direct influence on the success of your technology initiatives. After all, your culture defines how easy or difficult it is to do almost everything, from onboarding new employees to openly sharing ideas and driving adoption of new technologies.

Your IT department’s reputation and history of engagement with business teams is a key indicator of its cultural tie-in to your organization. An IT department that fosters open dialogue and has high-trust relationships with business teams has a tremendous advantage in deploying Office 365. Conversely, a tarnished set of relationships with IT can make it virtually impossible to drive successful change management efforts. Users that distrust or have an adversarial relationship with IT may be predisposed to view all IT initiatives in a negative light.

Your organizational culture is a living, breathing organism. It is built over time and is reinforced by operating norms, employee interactions, and executive modeling. Every communication decision your executives make and every unwritten social norm your departments have put in place has driven the design, shape, and usability of your culture. Changing (or rewriting) your organizational culture is a monumental effort that requires diligence, time, and a huge influx of positive energy. And ultimately, your employees will decide if the culture shift has a hope of succeeding.

Many factors can negatively impact your company’s culture: well-regarded executives leaving for new opportunities, founders selling the company or retiring, erosion of employee trust, etc.. Ironically, difficult economic times and business turbulence isn’t always a harbinger of negative culture shifts. Positive cultures can exist and thrive in negative business climates if there is trust, transparency, and a sense of company unity.

So what steps can you take to improve your company culture and support your Office 365 rollout? First, evaluate the current state of your organization’s culture. If you’re concerned your employees can’t evaluate your culture objectively, bring in outside consultants to perform a culture assessment. Next, build a vision for where you want to go. Interview employees, executives, and board members to gather their wish list for culture improvements. If you haven’t done so already, try leveraging innovation games to gather creative ideas for cultural improvements.

Once you’ve documented your current and desired future state, it’s time to build your transition plan. The specifics of your plan will be driven by your specific context, but common themes for cultural improvements include:

  • Aligning strategy & communications. Ensure your organizational goals are clearly defined and openly discussed at all levels. Having everyone on the same page and moving towards the same goal brings a sense of unity and common purpose.
  • Tear down the silos. Ensure your business teams are working together effectively and not competing for attention, funding, or recognition. Actively use the word “we” when referring to company initiatives, tasks, and efforts. Inclusive language fosters a collaborative, engaging atmosphere.
  • Be transparent. Employees can sense inauthenticity. Consistent, strong leadership is critical, and transparency and trust will build bridges and inspire cooperative behaviors.
  • Communicate early and often. Talk about what’s going well and what still needs work. Engage in departmental, cross-departmental, and all-employee meetings and engage everyone in the mission to improve your company culture. A unified strategy will help achieve buy-in and drive adoption.

There’s no wrong time to start your cultural transformation. Yes, it would be ideal if all our organizations had a winning culture before we began rolling out Office 365. This is rarely the case, so don’t sweat it if you’re not in a perfect position. Where you’ve been is less important than where you’re going.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s