The identity of your business will be defined by your organisational culture. Culture and identity is essentially the same thing: both define what your business stands for and the way it interacts with its stakeholders.
How you position your business to stakeholders will be influenced by your culture; it is the driver behind reputation, brand, and your organisational narrative. Essentially, your culture can be the difference between success and failure, so it is critical to define it at an early stage.
If you are building a culture from scratch; many focus on the ‘brand’ as being the driver. I prefer to use a different methodology; set out in four stages as follows:
1. Vision / Mission
The most essential part of defining your culture is the Vision: what does your organisation want to be, where does it want to go? The Vision will be the influencer behind culture, direction, strategy and narrative; it is the most important component of your organisational journey. It can be split between a vision (where you want to go) and a mission (what you want to be): or it can be a combined statement of intent.
But the first stage in defining your culture is setting your Vision; once you have that the next stage is defining the steps you need to take to reach your goal.
2. Cultural Ambition (Behaviours)
Once you have your Vision the next stage is to map out how your organisation has to ‘behave’ in order to reach that goal: that is something that I call cultural ambition. Organisational behaviours define your culture: they are at the heart of how you do business.
Cultural ambition is a term for behaviours; it essentially captures the essence of the behavioural outputs. When mapping out your organisational behaviours you need to translate behaviours into a series of outputs; this influences your competency framework and performance management processes and aligns reward and performance with cultural ambition and direction.
Organisational behaviours are at the heart of your culture; but they also influence your brand, identity and narrative. The link into brand is through your values.
3. Brand (Values)
This is often the starting point for some organisations in defining culture. But for me, your brand should be influenced by your culture. Culture is at the heart of your organisational identity; your brand is the ‘external’ face of your culture. The link between your culture and brand is through your values: aligning your values and behaviours is the solution to aligning your brand and your culture into a single proposition.
The process of defining your ‘brand values’ should run parallel with the definition of your behaviours: giving you the opportunity to align.
When you have an integrated cultural framework that aligns culture and brand you can begin to define your organisational narrative.
4. Organisational Narrative
Each organisation is on a journey; and setting the scene for your journey can be translated into ‘story telling’. Engaging your stakeholders on your journey is critical to driving engagement internally, and building confidence in your business and brand externally.
Defining your narrative and translating that into a story is the final piece in the jigsaw of building your culture. Organisational narrative is an essential part of your overall positioning and identity: it translates your vision, cultural ambition and direction into a story that acts as the catalyst for messaging and communications.
Related blog: Telling your organisational story
This methodology for building an organisational culture will give you a consistent and credible story to tell where your brand, culture and identity are all aligned to your Vision and Strategy.
The template I use for building a cultural framework is below. This is an incredibly useful way of capturing the different elements that make up your organisational story into one integrated framework. It is also a clear way of defining your culture to your business.
This can also be tweaked to capture changes in direction which makes cultural change a far more fluid proposition.
Related blog: Culture change, getting the foundations right
Example of an integrated cultural framework (for illustrative purposes only).