Structure as an Organic Part of Organizational Culture

My previous posts described how the system of rules and outcomes – the structure – of the organization must be implemented in a depersonalized and positive manner.  The goal you want to achieve is to have structure be an integral part of the organization so that it is the culture and it feels organic.

You see, when structure exists unobtrusively, it is just a part of what is around employees, an unspoken code that governs the way people interact. This is organizational culture.  Such structure is not experienced as an exterior set of rules or procedures; it is the way of doing business.   Most of the “rules” we have for ourselves at work are just about how we should do things well.  So we hold a meeting with a coherent agenda, or engineer a part properly, or perform a service according to standards of which we are proud.  We wouldn’t think of doing it any other way.

As every employee comes to understand that the product or service of the organization is their responsibility (and their bread and butter), they don’t need to be told what to do and how to do it.  They strive to succeed because they want to do things well and to achieve mastery (our fourth principle).  The job of management and leadership is really to help people learn and organize how they can succeed in their positions, individually and as teams.

Company employees can and should participate in building their own structure, including systems for holding themselves accountable to essential outcomes. The way structure becomes obtrusive is when management takes responsibility for controlling how people function in the workplace.  The key here is that employees have the responsibility for “controlling” how they behave and what they produce.  Management helps establish organizational goals so that the company succeeds.  Employees need to figure out the rules (policies and procedures) needed to meet those goals.

When employees see themselves as responsible for their own outcomes, it allows management to get squarely behind them with support.  Employees need both the technical materials to carry out their jobs and human support.  Support, in the form of acceptance and nurturance, can be provided and received so much better when there aren’t needless debates about required performance. Successful managers and companies can focus on mature dialogue about how to perform well and succeed in their businesses.

Tom DeMaio

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