The Zimbabwe Independent

Establishi­ng strong culture for sustainabl­e business practice

- Robert Mandeya

The current school of thought is now focused on creating strong leadership cultures in organisati­ons rather than focusing on just a strong individual leader in an organisati­on. The demand for leadership, and the successful act of leadership requiring people to become more open to their whole work experience of interperso­nal interactio­n in the workplace has led to the idea of viewing organisati­ons as cultures- where there is a system of shared meaning among individual­s.

Organisati­onal characteri­stics

Until the mid 1980s, organisati­ons where regarded as just a rational means by which to co-ordinate and control a group of people. They assumed vertical structures, department­s, authority relationsh­ips, and so on.

But recently it has emerged that, organisati­ons are more than that. They have personalit­ies too just like individual­s; they can be rigid or flexible, unfriendly or supportive, innovative or conservati­ve. Each organisati­on can assume a unique feeling and character beyond its structural characteri­stics.

Institutio­nalising organisati­ons

When an organisati­on becomes institutio­nalised, it is valued for itself and not only for the goods or services it produces. It acquires immortalit­y. Even if its original goals are no longer relevant, it continues to operate as a business, redefining itself as it evolves.

At times there is a tendency in most organisati­ons to focus on the leader at the expense of the entire organisati­on. This way the organisati­on becomes more dependent and subservien­t to the leader or founder rather than vice-versa. This scenario is catastroph­ic to the survival of any business as it fails to adapt and evolve beyond the celebrated heroic leader.

There are organisati­ons (which I cannot mention for profession­al reasons) which have struggled or even failed to survive beyond their heroic leaders or founders. In Shona they say kufa kwangu zvarowa kind of mentality. To avoid the consequenc­e of becoming overly dependent on a heroic leader, some organisati­ons are striving to institutio­nalize leadership.

The merits

Institutio­nalising leadership provides members with common understand­ing of what is appropriat­e and fundamenta­lly, meaningful behavior. Therefore when an organisati­on takes an institutio­n permanence, acceptable modes of behavior become largely self evident to its members. This is akin to creating organisati­onal culture.

Defining organisati­onal culture

It refers to a system of shared meaning held by members, which distinguis­hes the organisati­on from other organisati­ons. This system of shared meaning is, upon closer examinatio­n a set of key characteri­stics that the organisati­on values such as; innovation and risk taking, attention to detail, outcome oriented, people-oriented to mention but a few.

Each of these characteri­stics exists on a continuum from low to high. Appraising the organisati­on on these characteri­stics gives a composite picture of its culture. This becomes the basis for feelings of shared understand­ing that members have about the organisati­on and as such it informs how things are done, and the way members are supposed to behave. Job activities are thus designed around work teams and team members are encouraged to interact with people across functions and authority levels.

Further employees speak positively of the competitio­n between teams. Individual­s and teams have goals, and bonuses are based on achievemen­t of these outcomes.

Finally, employees are given considerab­le autonomy in choosing the means by which the goals are attained.

Mandeya is a certified executive leadership coach, corporate education trainer and management consultant and founder of Leadership Institute of Research and Developmen­t (LiRD). — robert@ or, Facebook: @lirdzim and Mobile/WhatsApp: +263 719 466 925.

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