Nilofer Merchant wrote a blog post for Harvard Business Review last year titled “Culture Trumps Strategy, Every Time.” It contains a fantastic definition of organizational culture that I would have printed on a t-shirt if I wore an extra large instead of a size small:
“Culture is the set of habits that allows a group of people to cooperate by assumption rather than by negotiation. Based on that definition, culture is not what we say, but what we do without asking. A healthy culture allows us to produce something with each other, not in spite of each other. That is how a group of people generates something much bigger than the sum of the individuals involved.”
Blatant Media is a culture-centric organization that fits Ms. Merchant’s definition above. Blatant culture isn’t dictated in a memo from headquarters—”please respect our culture by being supportive of your colleagues”—rather, the culture is defined by many small things, habits as Mr. Merchant calls them, that together create a positive and effective workplace:
- The Xbox games room
- The late afternoon e-mail threads with colleagues that make you laugh out loud
- The beauty of the work surroundings
- The style of communication
The Virgin Company, for instance, understands the style of communication can have a significant impact on culture. Call a typical telephone company and you’ll get a message saying…
“Your call is important to us. Please hold the line until the next available customer service representative.”
Call Virgin Mobile and you’ll first be asked what type of music you’d like to listen to.
“If you want to chill, press 1.”
This style of communication isn’t limited to Virgin Mobile. I once took a flight on Virgin Airlines where the safety announcement was narrated by someone I assume to be Barry White, over sexy background music. The final line was…
“Please be careful as you open the overhead compartments because, you know, shift happens.”
Your organization’s communication style should be consistent across different media and applications, including your learning management system. Take a look at the labels and system messages learners encounter. Do they project the culture of the company? If not, explore whether these can be changed, either by your system administrator or by your LMS vendor.