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Flipping a Toxic Work Culture Series: Identifying your Organization's Culture: Applying Schein Model

Welcome back to another post of Flipping a Toxic Work Culture Series. Most Consultant Proficiency Resources postings are road maps to cultivating a healthy work environment. Whether it's through the adoption of Wellness programs, honing leadership style, promoting awareness on the various levels of motivation, or understanding the culture that drives toxicity, CPR's goals are to educate, elucidate, and explain when applicable to leaders within the small business community. Today, CPR's post explains how to apply Edgar Schein's organizational culture (OC) model.

As a consultant to small businesses, I would undoubtedly recommend recruiting an expert or someone proficient in the study of OC; however, as a leader, you can assume the position of a learner to understand how you can apply OC to resolve a business problem. Forbes 2018 article recommends the following steps once you identify a problem exists: 1. Focus on the specific business problem The first step is to spell out the problem. 2. Engage the group

Known as subcultures or microcultures. To find out what’s causing the problem, inquire within. Ask your team via surveys, focus groups, or an independent 3rd party. 3. Create the right environment The right environment translates to a safe space. Your employees need to know they will not be penalized for their honesty. Employees need a place of safety to be candid about getting to the root of the problem. 4. Specify the change goal Once your group has identified what’s causing your business problem, ask what behavior would look like a year ago if we solved this problem. Answering this question will help you move away from understanding your problem and thinking about how to solve your problem. 5. Build a change program to rectify Now that you’re clear on where you’re going, it’s time to put together a change program to make it happen. One of the more popular change approaches is Kurt Lewin's approach to change. As a small business leader, follow through when you decide to change. Your employees are looking at what you are saying and your actions.

To address the problem, for example, a decline in sales, applying Schein's model commences with three levels: 1-Artifact level: Salespeople undercut each other to win a bonus over their sales colleagues. This is beneficial to the individual but detrimental to the organization.

2-Values level: Competition is encouraged between salespeople, and their entire reward structure is set up to support this. Sales managers are also rewarded based on the total value of sales, not collaboration.

3-Assumptions level: The organization’s founder set things up based on the American Competitive culture. The assumption is based on individuals by nature being competitive. There must be a winner and a loser. Cut-throat competition plagues many large industries that affect an organization's OC. Competition may also affect small businesses based on how employees understand your organization's culture.

The reality, culture may only have some significance when a problem presents itself; however, as a consultant, this might be a sign that you have gone too far. Much like a diagnosis, if you are experiencing a problem (that is, pain or dis-ease), the disease is more than likely advanced. The pain should serve as a signal that something is wrong. Similarly, bad behavior or negative results may signal something wrong within your organization. In conclusion, small business leaders applying Edgar Schein’s culture model should be aware of the three different layers of every organizational culture. When a problem exists, the goal is to identify the issue by searching the three layers within an organization. CPR recommends first completing Schein's OC survey, which will assist you in qualifying the existing OC as opposed to your desired OC.

Warm Regards,


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