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Boardroom Culture

Before we dive into why a culture shift is so necessary today, let’s define what “culture” actually is. Most people describe it as “how we do things around here”. But, for anybody leading and overseeing an organizational culture, that’s far too simplistic.

When it comes to a more fleshed-out definition, Edgar Schein, the father of modern organizational culture, does it best. According to Schein, organizational culture is a shared set of basic assumptions that are learned by a group, such as a board, as it solves organizational challenges and addresses outside issues, such as a global pandemic, that are impacting it. This shared set of assumptions has worked well enough to be considered valid and can be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.

And when you study the varied definitions of culture, which all have their roots in Schein’s, you will learn that regardless of how it is defined, there are three key aspects.

Right and Wrong: Culture determines for us the correct ways of thinking, feeling, believing, and acting. It’s how we form our sense of right and wrong.

Shared Experience: When people share an experience, they learn from it, they teach it to someone else — and a cultural norm is created.

Solve Problems: We do all of this, of course, to solve problems. There is a general group consensus that those right and wrong thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions will solve the problems of the organization and lead it to future success inside and outside the organization.

How to Lead Culture

None of this, of course, is for the faint of heart. Leading a culture shift takes consistent, hard work. Here’s what any organization needs to get started on a cultural transformation.

Leadership: Cultural transformations often fizzle because of un-sustained or changing leadership — a board that transitions to a new chair each year, for example. What boards and organizations need now is consistency — in faces and messages. From the top, leaders must be invested in group dialogue and constant, relevant communication.

Direction: Leaders must have a deep understanding of the basic underlying assumptions and cultural norms that are at play. They must understand what they’re changing from, why they are the way they are, and where they’re headed.

Commitment: Boards can’t just pay lip service to this transformation. There must be a broad commitment of both dedicated time and money to make it happen.

Burning Platform: While leadership, direction, and commitment are critical for any culture shift, the most important might be this: a burning platform and vision for where this transformation will take the organization. For it to take hold, people need to see that what’s next is better and safer than where they are now.

Find the right tool to measure – and deal – with culture: Reach new levels of success by creating an effective boardroom culture that nurtures strong governance from within. The proprietary Boardroom Culture Solution – by Governance Solutions – helps you recognize underlying cultural issues – and take steps to improve them. Learn more.

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