Does Fragmented Culture Affect Your Business?
By Laura Gallaher, PhD, LHEP™
- Culture is driven by leadership
- Fragmented culture can be effective depending on the circumstance
- Fragmented culture can ruin a business when the goal of the team isn’t unified
- Trust within the team strengthens culture
Culture is driven by leadership
Culture is driven by the worst behavior allowed by leadership.
I heard this from one of the CEO’s I was working with. Her whole philosophy centered on the idea that she expects high performance from everybody, regardless of the level, and that being clear about what is ok and not ok in the organization is the only effective way to drive culture.
Sometimes I hear people say, “We don’t really have a culture.”
Well – all groups of people have culture – which could be defined most simply as “how we do things here.” However, what you might notice in an organization is that the culture is fragmented – meaning there are sub-groups with their own sub-cultures, and not one unified way that people in the organization act.
In some cases, I think that’s ok – and by “ok” I mean – effective.
Fragmented Culture – Effective or Not?
A different company, a start-up, that I worked with was filled mostly with sales, marketing, and operations people who really enjoyed being around each other and other people on a regular basis. They loved having an open floor plan, and the noise associated with that set up. Everybody could play off of the bell ringing that happened when something exciting happened, like closing a new deal. And then there was the technology team.
The technology team happened to be a group of men who preferred a quiet environment. They enjoyed collaborating, but not in a noisy space. They wanted to keep the people interaction to a minimum in order to focus on coding and technical problem solving. So their sub-culture worked well for them.
Where does a fragmented culture fall apart?
For the most part, these sub-cultures worked well for the teams involved. But there were weaknesses that emerged. For one, it caused some distress for the CEO. In her growing company, she once felt that everybody was pretty unified in what they wanted, and as the number of employees grew, she felt a sense of loss of what was.
One of the main issues had to do purely with the stories in people’s heads. The tech team worked quietly in their corner, and for some people in the organization, they feared that meant the tech team didn’t like them, or looked down on them. And some of the people on the tech team worried that the more outgoing sales, marketing, and ops people thought they were unfriendly, simply because they preferred a quieter environment.
What if everybody was just open?
One of the things I preach about is rigidity and how dangerous it is to be rigid. I think that applies just about everywhere (but I’m not really into absolutes, so you can see how I say “just about everywhere” instead of “everywhere” ;).
So, is it ok that not everybody in the organization loves the ringing of the bell when a sale occurs? I’d say yes.
The main thing is to facilitate openness on your team. If each person practices being open with each other about the “stories” in their heads, the fears that they notice creep up, and practice listening to each other – they will realize that their differences are NOT the problem – it is only rigidity around those differences that is a problem.
The essence of not being rigid is being able to flex away from your preferences with minimal to no anxiety or fear.
How do I balance a cohesive vs. fragmented culture?
Allow people to be who they are – and know what truly is “non-negotiable” for you. But even then – create space to question your “non-negotiables.” The most intelligent and effective leaders are continuously questioning how they do things, and are not afraid to revisit “how they do things” to see if it still resonates.