Following the article about communication two weeks ago, I should like to look again into the broader issue of culture, to which communication is closely related. Culture is strong in Ethiopia. For many years I have been invited to attend important occasions like weddings, the baptism of a new born baby and funerals as well. The way things are done during such gatherings are part of the Ethiopian culture and the people are proud of it. Some will come and talk to me and make me feel comfortable as foreigner among so many Ethiopians, demonstrating another important part of the culture: hospitality. And much of it is organised around colourful buffets, displaying all sorts of different national dishes. Somebody else will proudly show me how to cut the raw meat! It is all part of the culture or the way things are done here in Ethiopia. Some of it I appreciate, some of it I have difficulties relating to as I come from another culture, from a place where things are done differently. Where I come from we don’t eat raw meat, but we eat raw fish! Will you try some? When going abroad people tend to maintain some of their culture and identity. Over time, we can adjust to a new culture and change our ways of doing things. That is not easy but it is possible. Culture dictates the way people relate to each other, how they perceive time and how they communicate with other people, in other words how they socially interact with each other.
Organizations and companies also have a culture, a way of how things are done. And the way things are done depends to a large extend on the people who are working together, what their backgrounds are and the way the business is managed. We will have a closer look at different corporate cultures and how they can be changed if so needed.
As in society, culture forms the corporate identity. It includes the values, direction and purpose of the company. Some companies have a strong culture, others less. There are two types of distinct human relations that form culture: Sociability and Solidarity. Sociability is the measure of sincere friendliness amongst a community and solidarity is the measure of the ability of a community to pursue shared objectives quickly and effectively.
How do relations in an organization now affect effectiveness of doing business? Well, it depends. Each may be appropriate for a certain environment or situation a business is in. The art is to recognise which is the dominant way people relate to each other in your company and to decide whether this is the right culture for your situation. If not, some measures may need to be taken to change the culture to become more effective.
Where there is a high level of sociability we see people help each other, talking together, sharing, laughing and crying together, no matter what. A company with a high level of sociability is a place where workers enjoy their work, where the team spirit is high, where information is shared, where people are open to new ideas and allow each other to express themselves freely. People tend to work harder to help their colleagues. It is also a place where friendship allows for poor performance to be tolerated and where decisions depend on consensus, because friends do not like to criticise each other. In tackling problems, compromise is applied rather than the best solution.
In a company with a high level of solidarity, relationships are based on common tasks, mutual interests, or shared goals, that will benefit all. There is a high degree of strategic focus, with quick responses to competitive threats. Poor performance is not tolerated. Such companies can be very effective indeed. Workers are treated fairly and equally, holding all to the same standards. On the other hand, workers now tend to think more about their personal gains before taking on an assignment. They ask: “What is in it for me?”
I should like to suggest that you assess what the levels of solidarity and sociability are in your company.
After rating your company’s levels of solidarity and sociability you will now be able to derive what your corporate culture is. Is it the right culture? Or does it require some change?